Roman Catholic Church: Inquisition

By Barbara G Walker

From The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, entry on "Inquisition"


Until the advent of Nazism in modern Germany, Europe knew no system of organized terrorism to rival the 500-year reign of the Inquisition. Historian Henry Charles Lea, recognized as the leading expert on the medieval period, called the Inquisition "a standing mockery of justice -- perhaps the most iniquitous that the arbitrary cruelty of man has ever devised.... Fanatic zeal, arbitrary cruelty, and insatiable cupidity rivalled each other in building up a system unspeakably atrocious. It was a system which might well seem the invention of demons. (See Torture.)

It was invented primarily to force public acceptance of a church the public didn't want. According to a contemporary aphorism, the church had not ten commandments but only one: "Bring hither the money."2 St. Bernard deplored the church's greed: "Whom can you show me among the prelates who does not seek rather to empty the pockets of his flock than to subdue their vices?"5

Bulgarian writers said the priests of Rome were given to drunkenness and robbery, and "there is none to forbid them." The local presbyter Cosmas didn't deny it but only insisted that Christians must honor even wicked priests.4 This was an accepted doctrine. Pilichdorf said, "The worst man, if he be a priest, is more worthy than the holiest of layman."5

Priests were a privileged class, but their privileges were more and more resented. In the 12th century, monasteries made themselves into wineshops and gambling houses; nunneries became private whorehouses for the clergy; priests used a confessional to seduce female parishioners. Episcopal collectors were depicted in popular stories as the worst of all sinners.6 "The sale of Church offices was constant and unblushing."7 Even the pope observed that "those charged with divine 'grace... participate in rapine and despoliation, even in the shedding of blood."8

Pierre de Bruys was burned in 1126 for declaring openly that "God is no more in the church than in the market-place; the forms and ceremonies which to so many folk replace true religion are utterly useless; the Cross should not be prayed to.... The priests lie in | pretending that they made Christ's body and give it to the people for |their salvation."9 According to Tyndale, common folk said of anything that went wrong, "the bishop has blessed it." If the dinner burned, |they said the bishop has put his foot in it, "because the bishops burn who they list and whosoever displeaseth them."10

Would-be reformers within the church were usually silenced. Frere Raymond Jean was executed for preaching against the church's abuses. He said bitterly, "The enemies of the faith are among ourselves. The Church which governs us is symbolled by the Great Whore of the Apocalypse, who persecutes the poor and the ministers of Christ."''

Nicholas de Clamanges, rector of the University of Paris, declared in an open letter that the popes were ravishers, not pastors, of their flocks: "The priesthood has become a misery reduced to profaning its calling.... Who do you think can endure, among so many other abuses, your mercenary appointments, your multiple sale of benefices, your elevation of men without honesty or virtue to the most eminent positions?"12 Pope Alexander VI, one of the men so described, was credited with the cynical remark, "It is not God's wish that a sinner should die, but that he should live -- and pay." "

A Franciscan splinter group, the Fraticelli, withdrew from their order, claiming the pope and all his successors were tainted with the sin of simony. Therefore the church had been excommunicated by God, for ignoring Christ's vow of poverty. They called the pope an Antichrist.14 These heretics were soon exterminated. One of their centers, the village of Magnalata, was leveled by order of Pope Martin V and every resident slain.15

In 1325 Pope John issued the bull Cum Inter Nonnullos, which "infallibly" declared it was heresy to say Jesus and his apostles owned no property. Inquisitors were ordered to prosecute those who believed Jesus was a poor man. The group called Spiritual Franciscans, who did so believe, were taught an immediate lesson when the pope had 114 of their number burned alive.15

The offenses of the Waldenses included many "wrong" opinions. They said laymen and women had the right to preach; masses, votive offerings, and prayers for the dead were useless; purgatory did not exist, one could pray to God without setting foot in a church; and a bad priest should be forbidden to administer sacraments -- "a proposition which does no less than deny lasting grace to the sacrament of Orders, and thus destroys the fundamental privilege of the Church." The Waldenses said priests who demand money for administering communion are lower than Judas, "for they sell for one denarius that body for which he demanded thirty."17

Along with public disgust at the church's avarice, there was a growing suspicion -- sparked by Gnostic philosophies from the east -- that the church's myths of the garden of Eden, the fall, original sin, heaven and hell, the virgin birth, the meaning of salvation, and so on, were literally untrue. Because people refused to believe[that] the eucharistic bread and wine were literally flesh and blood, the papacy lost all of Bohemia, which after many wars and crusades founded its separate Moravian church. Tenets of the Roman church were widely questioned. Priests were forbidden to "dispute concerning the faith against such astute heretics" in public, lest they expose themselves to ridicule.18 As Becker said, "This is neurosis in a nutshell: the miscarriage of clumsy lies about reality."19

Despite the church's efforts to keep the populace in ignorance, even among the peasantry there were individuals astute enough to recognize theology's clumsy lies. Even the 12th-century passion for building cathedrals seems to have represented a last-ditch effort to hold the wandering attention of the people by giving them splendid temples of the "Lady," to replace the Mother-shrines previously destroyed. At length not even the Notre Dames sufficed. The Church had to fall back on its traditional propensity to maintain a reign of terror.20

Guignebert says Christianity was "given to warfare; exclusive, violently intolerant, to the Jews especially menacing; bristling with peremptory dogmas which set reason at defiance; marked by complex elaborate rites... kept up to the mark by a formidable army of monks and kept in check by a quibbling troop of acute theologians."2l The violence of the Inquisition was its ultimate weapon.

Violence could be invoked under this system by nothing more than ordinary living, just as the doctrine of original sin was invoked by nothing more than being born. Not only sexual impulses, which were always labeled corrupt, but almost every other natural impulse was viewed as evidence of anti-Christian perversity.22

Modern apologists say the Inquisition served some good purposes, like helping secular courts bring criminals to justice.23 Only a few decades ago, even Catholic manuals mendaciously claimed the Inquisition was a purely civil tribunal.24 Actually, the Inquisition was uninterested in secular crimes, except insofar as they could provide a basis for a charge of heresy or witchcraft. The Inquisition was created to win the war between the church and a disillusioned public. Coulton says, "The so-called Ages of Faith were only Ages of Acquiescence"; but even the acquiescence was wearing thin.25

The power of the Inquisition was established and enlarged by a series of papal bulls. Ad Extirpanda of Pope Innocent IV, issued May 15,1252, was "a terrible measure against heretics in Italy, authorizing seizure of their goods, imprisonment, torture, and, on conviction, death, all on minimal evidence."26

The Inquisition was the most elaborate extortion racket ever devised, primarily developed for profit.27 After the arrest, the property of the accused was instantly confiscated. Nothing seems to have been retumed. The popes publicly praised the rule of confiscation as a prime weapon against heresy.28 Confiscation was the organization's raison d'etre; when the rule of confiscation was not applied, "the business of defending the faith languished lamentably." Affluent Italy made its inquisitors incredibly rich in the 14th century. Within two years, the inquisitor of Florence amassed "more than seven thousand florins, an enormous sum."29 As the inquisitor Heinrich von Schulthels complacently wrote, "When I have you tortured, and by the severe fmeans afforded by the law I bring you to confession, then I perform a |work pleasing in God's sight; and it profiteth me."30

Confiscation took place before conviction, because it was taken for granted that no one escaped. "Officials considered themselves safe in actmg upon the presumption" of guilt. Sometimes confiscation took place even before confession. In 1300 a nobleman named Jean Baudier was arrested and first examined on January 20. He refused to confess for a long time but finally was broken down by torture and confessed on February 5. He was condemned on March 7. However, his impounded property had been sold on January 29, before the confession. Similarly, Guillem Garric was arrested at Carcassonne in 1284 but not sentenced until 1319. Nevertheless, officials were quarreling over his castle in 1301.

Accused persons were expected to pay the expenses of their own imprisonment, even of their own torture. This continental custom -; was followed in Scotland where, for example, torturers charged their victims 6 shillings and 8 pence for branding on the cheek. In England, accused witches were sometimes acquitted; yet they were kept in prison until they paid the expenses of their unlawful imprisonment.'2

The Inquisition's prisoners had to pay for their own food in prison. Without money they starved. Pope Gregory XI noted that too many were starving to death before they could be brought to the stake, but it seems not to have occurred to him to feed them on church funds. Instead, he offered indulgences to all who would donate food to the "many heretics and those defamed for heresy, who in consequence of their poverty cannot be sustained in prison unless the pious liberality of the faithful shall assist them as a work of charity." Thus the church bent its own rules, which said anyone who helped a heretic was to be suspected of heresy also. Lea commented:

(QUOTE) There is something so appallingly grotesque in tearing honest, industrious folk from their homes by the thousand, in thrusting them into dungeons to rot and starve, and then evading the cost of feeding them by presenting them to the faithful as objects of charity, that the proclamation which Gregory issued August 15th, 1376, is perhaps the most shameless monument of a shameless age. (UNQUOTE)

When an arrested heretic had unpaid debts, the judges simply canceled the debts on the ground that no heretic could engage in legal transactions. Thus, "creditors were shamelessly cheated." The entire financial network of European society was strained by its religious masters. "In addition to the misery inflicted by these wholesale confiscations on the thousands of innocent and helpless women and children thus stripped of everything.... All safeguards were withdrawn from every transaction. No creditor or purchaser could be sure of the orthodoxy of him with whom he was dealing.... The practice of proceeding against the memory of the dead after an interval virtually unlimited, rendered it impossible for any man to feel secure in the possession of property, whether it had descended in his family for generations, or had been acquired within an ordinary lifetime."34

Property could be seized from the dead, whose bones might be dug up from their graves and burned as post-mortem heretics; then the property was taken away from legal heirs.35 If a person knowing he was about to be arrested tried to sell or give away his property, or to commit suicide before the torturers got to him, his property was seized because a heretic was forbidden to make any legal transaction, and a suicide could bequeathe property to no one; it was taken by the church, If the accused fled the country, he was tried and convicted in absentia. Families of the accused were left destitute, and no one dared help them for fear of falling under suspicion. The Inquisition established the law of property seizure for suicides, which remained the rule in most European countries and the British Isles until 1870.36

Inquisitors could also impose heavy fines. Sometimes it was argued fines were useless, since all the property of the accused heretic disappeared in confiscation anyway; but the inquisitors invented a class of unwitting miscreants called "defenders," whose heresy might consist only of a single thoughtless word overheard or spoken. These could be fined for their oversight.37

The system of fines often developed into a protection racket. Inquisitors could "exchange the punishment of the body with the '" punishment of the purse," as Scot put it, and there were many who paid annual fees to escape persecution.38

A person who opposed or impeded the inquisitors in any way became at once excommunicate, and after a year in this condition iH- was "handed over without further ceremony to the secular arm for burning, without trial and without forgiveness." No one was acquitted. If a confession could not be obtained -- which was extremely rare,I thanks to the use of torture -- the sentence was "not proven." Even then, the prisoner could be kept indefinitely in prison in case new evidence should arise, or fresh tortures prove effective.39 Should a victim resist all tortures and survive, which was virtually unheard of, he still was not released. He could be sentenced to life imprisonment for "obduracy."

The witch's or heretic's trial was a mockery. The accused had no lawyer; Pope Boniface directed that trials must be conducted "simply, without the noise and form of lawyers."40 Evidence was accepted from witnesses who could not legally testify in any other kind of trial, such condemned criminals, other heretics, and children, even as young as the:age of two. The inquisitor Bodin "valued child witnesses because ttheir tender age they could easily be persuaded or forced to inform."41 A witness who withdrew adverse testimony was punished for perjury, but his testimony remained on the record.42 Inquisitorial rules for a trial were as follows:

1. The procedure was kept secret. 2. "Common report" and hearsay were accepted as proof of guilt. 3. Accused was not told of the nature of the charges nor allowed legal counsel. 4. Witnesses were kept concealed. 5. Perjurers, excommunicates, or children could give evidence against witches. 6. No favorable evidence or character witnesses were permitted. In any case, one who spoke for an accused heretic would be arrested as an accomplice. 7. Torture was used always, without limit of duration or severity. Even if the accused confessed before torture, the torture was applied anyway, to "validate" the confession. If the accused died under torture, the record stated that the devil broke his neck in prison. 8. Accused was forced to confirm under torture the names of "accomplices" suggested to him by the judges. 9. No accused person was found innocent.43

Officially, the rule was that torture could be applied only once. But, by a semantic quibble, it could be "continued" any number of times, even over a period of years, each pause being considered a "suspension," not an end. There are records of some victims tortured; over fifty times.44 The Inquisition's handbook, Malleus Maleficarum, said the accused witch must be "often and frequently exposed to torture. If after being fittingly tortured she refuses to confess the truth, he [the inquisitor] should have other engines of torture brought before her, and tell her that she will have to endure these if she does not confess. If then she is not induced by terror to confess, the torture must be continued." If she remained obdurate, "she is not to be altogether released, but must be sent to the squalor of prison for a year and be tortured, and be examined very often, especially on the more Holy Days."45

Another official rule was that the church did not shed blood. Therefore, victims were handed over to the secular arm (civil courts) for execution. This was called relaxing or abandoning them. It was accompanied by a token plea for mercy: "We cast you forth from this our ecclesiastical Court, and leave you to be delivered to the secular arm. But we earnestly pray that the said secular court may temper its justice with mercy, that there be no bloodshed or danger of death."46;

This plea was the emptiest of formalities, designed only to absolve the church of responsibility for bloodshed. In fact, "to be delivered to the secular arm" was an irrevocable death sentence, which the secular court was compelled to carry out. To temper justice with "mercy" meant permission to strangle the victim before she was burned, but this was not often done.47

History was written to order by church historians who claimed the church "took no part in the corporal punishment of heretics." Ecclesiastical euphemism forced on civil authorities a guilt that belonged at the church's door. Magistrates were commanded to carry out the death penalty by the dire threat of excommunication and consequent arrest. "The remorseless logic of St. Thomas Aquinas rendered it self-evident that the secular power could not escape the duty of putting the heretic to death.... [T]he only punishment recognized by the Church as sufficient for heresy was burning alive. Even if the ruler was excommunicated and incapable of legally performing any other function, he was not relieved from the obligation of this supreme duty, with which nothing was allowed to interfere.... The fact is, the Church not only defined the guilt and forced its punishment but created the crime itself."48

The fiction of the church's innocence was exposed by a bull of Pope Leo X in 1521. The Senate of Venice had refused to sanction the numerous executions ordered by the Inquisition. The Pope wrote to his legate, "We declare and order you to exhort and command the aforesaid Senate of Venice, their Doge and his officials, to intervene no more in this kind of trial, but promptly, without changing or inspecting the sentences made by the ecclesiastical judges, to execute the sentences which they are enjoined to carry out. And if they neglect or refuse, you are to compel them with the Church's censure and other appropriate legal measures. From this order there is no appeal."49 A directive published in 1599 said judges were bound under pain of mortal sin to execute witches; anyone who objected to the death sentence was suspected of complicity.50

Inquisitors "jealously guarded their records from all outsiders."51 On one occasion, magistrates of Brescia objected to burning a number of condemned witches without having examined records of their trials. But the inquisitors kept their records sequestered, and the pope declared the magistrates' reluctance a scandal to the faith. "He ordered the excommunication of the magistrates if within six days they did not execute the convicts ... a decision which was held to give the secular courts six days in which to carry out the sentence of "condemnation."52

Even when kept hidden, records were often falsified. Inquisitors had special terms for everything they did. For example, torturers said their victims were "laughing" when they contorted their faces with pain; or "sleeping" when they fainted. Those who died under torture "committed suicide" or were slain by the devil. Having confessed torture, the accused was compelled to repeat the confession the torture chamber, knowing he " would be returned thereto if he didn't obey; nevertheless, this was recorded as a confession given ly and spontaneously, without the pressure of force or fear," and court documents often claimed the accused had confessed without torture. Sometimes confessions were described as "voluntary" if they were obtained after the first degree of torture -- binding and racking.53 An episcopal scribe at Pamiers naively wrote that a prisoner confessed of own accord "after he was taken down from the torture."54

Some victims were listed as "confessed without torture" after exposure to only one instrument, a spiked iron press that crushed the legs. Friedrich von Spee, a Jesuit who acted as confessor for condemned witches and developed some compassion for them, wrote of this:: "And they call that 'Confessed without torture'! What kind of it can those have who lack all understanding of such pains? How can outstandingly learned men judge and discriminate when they cannot understand the language, the specialists' jargon, of the inquisitors?" In his Cautio Criminalis, von Spee wrote:

(QUOTE)Why do you search so diligently for sorcerers? I will show you at once where they are. Take the Capuchins, the Jesuits, all the religious orders, and torture them -- they will confess. If some deny, repeat it a few times -- they will confess. Should a few still be obstinate, exorcise them, shave them, only keep on torturing -- they will give in. If you want more, take the Canons, the Doctors, the Bishops of the Church -- they will confess." (UNQUOTE)

Another unusual churchman, Bernard Delicieux, was excommunicated, arrested, tortured, and burned alive for expressing the opinion that St. Peter and St. Paul, if tried by the Inquisition's methods, would certainly be convicted of heresy.56

Inquisitors were placed entirely above the law by Pope Innocent IV in his bull of 1252, Ad Extirpanda.*7 Every ruler and citizen must assist them on pain of excommunication. Resistance could place the whole community under interdict, or force payment of heavy fines. Any individual fined by the Inquisition could be held in prison until he paid, or died. Torture was officially sanctioned in 1257 and remained a legal recourse of the church for five and a half centuries until it was abolished by Pope Pius VII in 1816.58

The victims in those five and a half centuries were literally countless. Official burnings were only a beginning. There were also the disrupted, starving families; unrecorded suicides; unofficial lynchings; hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, who died unnoticed in the papal crusades against heretical groups. There were late-Renaissance witch hunts in Protestant countries, which had no formal connection with the Inquisition but certainly took their impetus from it.

The chronicler of Treves reported that in the year 1586, the entirefemale population of two villages was wiped out by the inquisitors, except for only two women left alive.59 Two other villages were destroyed completely and erased from the map.60 A hundred and thirty-three persons were burned in a single day at Quedlinburg in 1589, out of a town of 12,000. Henri Boguet said Germany in 1590 was "almost entirely occupied with building fires (for witches); and Switzerland has been compelled to wipe out many of her villages on their account. Travelers in Lorraine may see thousands and thousand of the stakes to which witches are bound."6I

In 1524, one thousand witches died at Como.62 Strasbourg burned five thousand in a period of 20 years.63 The Senate of Savoy condemned 800 witches at one time. Parame stated that over thirty thousand were executed in the 15th century.64 Nicholas Remy said he personally sentenced 800 witches in 15 years and in one year alone forced sixteen witches to suicide. A bishop of Bamberg claimed 600 witches in 10 years; a bishop of Nancy, 800 in 16 years; a bishop of Wurtzburg, 1900 in 5 years. Five hundred were executed within three months at Geneva and 400 in a single day at Toulouse. The city| of Treves burned 7,000 witches. The Lutheran prelate Benedict Carpzov, who claimed to have read the Bible 53 times, sentenced 20,000 devil-worshippers. Even relatively permissive England killed 30,000 witches between 1542 and 1736. The slaughter went on throughout Christian Europe for nearly five centuries.65

Mass burnings on the Iberian peninsula were known as autos-de (acts of faith). They were held once a month on the average, usually on a Sunday or holiday so all could attend; to stay away was thought suspicious. Sometimes the spectators were invited to participate, as in irte diversion genially known as "shaving the new Christians." This meant setting fire to the hair or beards of those waiting their turn at the stake.66

Wholesale burnings in Germany are suggested by the observation of a visitor to Wolfenbuttel in 1590: there were so many stakes to burn the witches that the place of execution resembled a small forest. The executioner of Neisse in Silesia invented an oven in which he roasted to death forty-two women and young girls in one year. Within nine years he had roasted over a thousand persons, including children two to four years old.67

Inquisitors were empowered to absolve each other, their officers, torturers, and executioners, of blood guilt for their victims' deaths, whether in the prison, in the torture chamber, or at the stake.68 They also forced the condemned witches to recite: "I free all men, especially the ministers and magistrates, of the guilt of my blood; I take it wholly upon myself, my blood be upon my own head." Some witches even were made to repudiate the more impossible confessions extorted by torture, as a suicidal device: "Through the temptation of the devil I made up that confession on purpose to destroy my own life, being aweary of it, and choosing rather to die than live." These abject recitations preceded the trip to the stake, for it was common practice to silence witches on their way to execution, either by wooden gags, or by cutting out their tongues, to prevent communication with the crowd.69

Inquisitors didn't want to give witches a chance to reveal that they had been raped in prison, the usual practice of torturers and their assistants during preliminary "stripping."70 By the curious morality of the day, outrage could be excited by sexual "irregularities" although spectacles of hideous torment were received without serious objection. The people of Toulouse gathered evidence against an inquisitor named Foulques de Saint-George to prove he arrested women for the sole purpose of abusing them sexually.71 Apparently this was considered worse than torturing them.

Some records hint that executioners could indulge their lusts as long as they were circumspect. The day in 1589 at Quedlinburg, 133 witches were burned and four inexplicably disappeared. "Four beautiful r girls were spared by the executioner, who gave out that the devil had spirited them away."72 They were never seen again. One can well imagine who this "devil" was and what happened to the poor girls before they were finally murdered.

It can hardly be doubted that a major driving force of all witch hunts was sadistic sexual perversion. Torturers liked to attack women's breasts and genitals with pincers, pliers, and red-hot irons. Under the Inquisition's rules, little girls were prosecuted and tortured for witchcraft a year earlier than little boys -- at 9 1/2, as opposed to 10 1/2 for boys. Witch hunting generally was directed against the female sex, and the abject helplessness of imprisoned and tortured women invariably encouraged sexual abuse along with every other kind of abuse. Late in the 14th century it became a rule that prisoners in solitary confinement (usually women) could be visited in their cells by "zealous Catholics" (always men; female visitors were not allowed).71

One inquisitorial judge, Dietrich Flade, experienced a revulsion for his lifework and dared to say openly that the confessions wrung from his victims were false, due only to their agony. His archbishop had Flade arrested and put on the rack himself until he admitted having sold his soul to Satan; then he was burned.7'*

Another who ran into trouble for speaking too freely was Peter the Precentor of Paris, who said the Inquisition blackmailed rich people and falsely accused and arrested "certain honest matrons" who "refused to consent to the lasciviousness of priests."75 Civil magistrates who criticized the Inquisition often found themselves in its dungeons. When the governor of Albi defended his people against the inquisitors in 1306, letters were forged and "discovered" in church records to remove him from office on the ground that his grandfather was a convicted heretic.76

Predictably, inquisitors often went in fear of their own lives, appearing in public with escorts of armed guards. Some were attended by small armies of toughs whose disruptive behavior was absolved by their masters, so they could literally get away with murder, robbery, and rape; they were "above the law."77 Many inquisitors wore armor under their habits and tested all their food for poison. Torquemada's chief protege Pedro Arbues was assassinated by relatives of some of his victims in a church in Aragon as he left his guards and went alone to the altar to receive the sacrament. During the 19th century, Pedro Arbues was canonized as a saint by Pope Pius IX.78

Another inquisitor-saint was Peter Martyr (Piero da Verona), whose case has never been adequately explained. He was so zealous in Lombardy as to embarrass even the church; apparently it was decided that he would be more useful dead than alive. In 1252 he was assassinated, and within a year he was canonized -- the fastest creation of a saint on record. His killers were captured but not prosecuted. One of them later became an inquisitor himself. Another entered the Dominican order, died in old age, and was canonized as St. Acerinus; his portrait appeared in a stall of Peter Martyr's own church in 1505. The third conspirator was arrested and imprisoned by the Inquisition 43 years after the murder, possibly because he was beginning to talk too much.79

Another curious case was that of the heretic who nearly became s saint, Armanno Pongilupo, a high-ranking official of the Catharan sect at Ferrara in the 13th century. Pretending devout Catholicism, Pongilupo secretly gave aid to imprisoned heretics. He played the part of piety so well that after his death, altars and images were dedicated to him; he received a magnificent tomb in the cathedral; stories were told of his miraculous cures of the sick, the lame, and the blind. Ferrara's citizens demanded his canonization, but the church refused, ordering that his remains be exhumed and burned for his heresy. Ferrara would not comply. The cathedral was placed under interdict and its chapter was excommunicated. Arguments about Pongilupo dragged on for 33 years. Finally, the inquisitor Guido da Vincenza ended the matter by having Pongilupo's bones burned, his altars destroyed, and his heirs deprived of their property -- which naturally reverted to the church. Guido was rewarded with the episcopate of Ferrara.80

The Inquisition was not organized to administer justice; it was organized to enrich the church and silence its critics. Lea says, "All the safeguards which human experience had shown to be necessary in judicial proceedings of the most trivial character were deliberately cast aside in these cases, where life and reputation and property through three generations were involved. Every doubtful point was decided 'in favor of the faith'.... Had the proceedings been public, there might , have been some check upon this hideous system, but the Inquisition shrouded itself in the awful mystery of secrecy until after sentence had been awarded and it was ready to impress the multitude with the fearful solemnities of the auto da fe."81

The Inquisition remained active until 1834, especially in Central and South America, where "heathen" natives were tortured and burned for crimes against the true faith, such as not believing in it.82 Mayan scribes in Central America wrote: "Before the coming of the Spaniards, there was no robbery or violence. The Spanish invasion was beginning of tribute, the beginning of church dues, the beginning of strife."83 Catholic fathers of the mission of San Francisco burned many Indian "witches" before the tribes were sufficiently subdued to accept God's word.84 Lea said, "An inquisitor seems to have been needed as a necessary portion of the missionary outfit."85

Even in the present century, Catholic authorities have tried to present the Inquisition in an undeservedly flattering light. Cardinal L'epicier, expressly supported by Pope Pius X, declared the church's reign of terror was right, just because the church did it. "The naked fact that the Church, of her own authority, has tried heretics and ^condemned them to be delivered to death, shows that she truly has the right of killing-----[W]ho dares to say that the Church has erred in a matter so grave as this?"86

In fact, many have dared to say so. Leland wrote: "When people believe, or make believe, in a thing so very much as to torture like devils and put to death hundreds of thousands of fellow-beings, mostly hapless and poor old women, not to mention many children, it becomes a matter of very serious import to all humanity to determine once for all whether the system or code according to which this was done was absolutely right for ever, or not."87 Anthropologist Jules Henry said, "Organized religion, which likes to fancy itself the mother of compassion, long ago lost its right to that claim by its organized support of organized cruelty."88 Coulton said of the Inquisition, "History affords few plainer examples of the demoralizing effects of absolute power upon fairly ordinary men."89 And Vetter pointed out that the system that created such horrors may be still dangerous:

(QUOTE)Have religious institutions been any more humane in the process of consolidating their power than has secular machinery similarly occupied? The taste for slaughter exhibited by the sons of the Prophet was more than matched by that of Christians who liquidated heathen and heretic.... The cultural backgrounds of the past and current generation of political dictators provides interesting material for speculation. Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, Hitler, Peron and almost without exception the Latin-American dictators were or are Roman Catholics, at least in their education and upbringing. And Stalin had considerable training for the priesthood of an equally dictatorial church. Confronted with such facts one is compelled at least to ask himself what kind of causal sequences are here suggested.... In both Islam and Christendom the naive believers have over long periods been taught that it was their duty to slaughter the unbeliever, or whoever refused to accept their particular version of divine guidance. * They have not had a change of heart; they have just been shorn of the powers for mischief. * (UNQUOTE)

It is unsettling to realize that such powers for mischief could yet be revived. The edicts that established the Inquisition have never bet repealed. They are "officially still part of the Catholic faith, and were used as justification for certain practices as recently as 1969."9I

Julian Huxley deplored the "pestilent doctrine on which all the churches have insisted, that honest disbelief in their more or less ' astonishing creeds is a moral offense ... deserving and involving the same future retribution as murder and robbery." In his opinion, the worst visions of hell would seem pale beside a comprehensive vision of Christianity's gory history.92 Such history should be remembered, on the old principle that those who cannot remember their history are condemned to repeat it.

I. Lea, 60,97, 257. 2. Tuchman, 327. 3. Lea unabridged, 21. 4.Spinka.61. 5. Coulton, 177. 6. Lea unabridged, 10,16. 7. Coulton, 42. 8. Tuchman, 224. 9. Coulton, 61; H. Smith, 254; Guignebert, 291. 10. Hazlitt, 53. II. Lea unabridged, 599. 12. Tuchman, 522. 13. Chamberlin, B.P., 167, 170. 14. Coulton, 230. 15. Lea unabridged, 653. 16. Guignebert, 287. 17. Guignebert, 298, 326. 18. Coulton, 81. 19. Becker, D.D., 178. 20. Campbell, C.M., 395. 21. Guignebert, 184. 22. Campbell, M.T.L.B., 162. 23. Encyc. Brit., "Inquisition." 24. White 1, 319. 25. Coulton, 58. 26. ).B. Russell, 155. 27. Lea, 224. 28. Robbins, 229. 29. Lea, 173-75,225. 30. Robbins, 451. 31. Lea, 213-14. 32. Robbins, 116.456. 33. Coulton, 151. 34. Lea, 215, 218, 225. 35. Coulton, 132.148. 36. H. Smith, 418. 37. Lea, 169. 38. Scot. 27. 39. Lea, 45,149. 40. H. Smith, 284. 41. Robbins, 229. 554. 42. H. Smith, 284. 43. Robbins, 13-14. 44. H. Smith, 287; Robbins, 304. 45. Kramer & Sprenger. 226,249. 46. Coulton. 168-69. 47. H. Smith. 290. 48. Lea, 231,233,237. 49. Robbins, 305. 50. Pepper & Wilcock, 150. 51. Coulton, 119. 52. Lea, 235. 53. Robbins, 108,269,482-83, 540. 54. Coulton, 156. 55. Shumaker, 62; Bromberg, 61. 56. Lea unabridged, 214; Coulton, 216. 57. Lea, 33. 58. Robbins, 269. 59. Summers, G.W., 486-87. 60. Robbins, 219. 61.Shumaker,61. 62. W.Scott, 170. 63. Robbins, 219. 64.Coulton,263. 65. H. Smith, 292-93. 66. Plaidy, 157. 67. Robbins. 554-55. 68. Lea, 77. 69. Robbins, 105; Lea, 248. 70. Robbins, 592. 71. Lea unabridged. 302. 72. Robbins, 219. 73. Lea, 99.183. 74. H. Smith, 292. 75. Coulton. 38. 76. Lea. 76. 77. Lea, 77-79; Coulton, 293. 78. Reinach, 312. 79. Lea unabridged, 376. 80. Lea unabridged. 390. 81. Lea, 101-2. 82. Plaidy, 165. 83. von Hagen.61. 84. Briffault3. 519. 85. Lea, 51. 86 Coulton. 69. 87. Leland, 250. 88. Henry, 422. 89. Coulton, 129. 90. Vetter, 411, 510,518. 91. Holmes, 45. 92. H. Smith, 392-93.


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