The Catholic Defender: A Look At The Inqusition
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. " Matthew 18:15-19
The clouds of misrepresentation and distortion blur many people today because of the stigma associated with the topic of the Inquisition.
The average person out there is under the impression that the Catholic Church was a monster, the Catholic Church killed millions upon millions of people. I should rephrase this a little, the average anti-Catholic out there believes this...
For some of the Fundamentalist groups, the Catholic Church is the “Whore of Babylon” as she killed the saints.
Revelation 17:6 states, “I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witness to Jesus”.
It is assumed by many from these groups that this verse is talking about the Catholic Church. There are religious institutions built upon this premise. Are they Correct? That is the question that they will eventually have to come to terms with.
When St. John wrote this scripture, he would have had Jerusalem in mind because it was the Jews first that persecuted the Church (Acts 8:1-3).
The woman (Whore of Babylon) represents rebellion, if you believe the Catholic Faith as an “apostate church” sitting upon a seven hill city (Revelation 17:9), then you easily fall prey to this rhetoric.
Jerusalem is surrounded by seven hills and again, the actual text points to seven mountains, would be more to what St. John had in his mind.
The Vatican is surrounded by the Tiber River and is not within the City of Rome. That is an important distinction for the prophecy of St.John.
Somehow, these Fundamentalist groups seem to associate the Catholic Church with purple and scarlet adorned with gold, precious stones covered with blasphemous names.
Again, St. John would be thinking of Jerusalem as Revelation 17:4 fits perfectly with with Exodus 28 and 2 Samuel 12:30. The above is important to understand because this is the foundation of the attacks on the Catholic Church by Fundamentalists.
Revelation 17:18 identifies who this woman represents, “the great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth”. This is Jerusalem because the God of heaven is over over all the earth. In St. John's mind, this “great city” is identified as the place where the Lord was crucified (Revelation 11:8).
In past pro-life rallies held all across the Nation, most notably, Washington D.C., about 80% of those present were Catholic. Sadly, many Protestants from the Fundamentalist background would not participate with the “Whore of Babylon”. In recent years this has improved.
This impacts our ability to stand as one against abortion and other important moral issues of our time. The Inquisition becomes a talking point for those who attack the Church. Things are taken out of context and it is difficult to understand the difference from the Middle Ages and the 21st Century.
The Catholic Church during the time of St. John was underground.
St. John wrote the Book of Revelation while in exile on the Island of Patmos.
He was hardly adorned with precious stones except chains he bore for Christ.
The first three centuries, the Catholic Church suffered greatly at the hands first by the Jewish authorities, then the Roman Empire.
Nero was certainly considered the “Anti-Christ” during the time of St. John.
Several of the following Roman Emperors such as Diocletian, Domitian, Trajan, and Decius are examples of those who were merciless and barbaric against the Church. This is why some of our Fundamentalist friends want to tie Constantine with the Papacy.
Constantine would convert to the Catholic Faith, and through his Edict of Milan, grant freedom to the Catholic Church.
Again, people associate Constantine with introducing Paganism into the Church. That is another false premise. Constantine granted freedom to the Christians and he wanted to settle disputes that developed such as the Arian Heresy.
Praying for the dead, the teaching on Purgatory, the Bible, the Trinity, Sunday Worship, Confession, among other things, were part of the Apostolic Ministry, Constantine did not institute these things. These things come from Christ through the Church.
The Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) convened to deal with the Arian Heresy, but there were a number of other issues they had to decide on.
A major issue concerned the repentance and return of Christians who caved into the Roman persecution.
For many of the 300 Bishops who gathered at the Council of Nicaea this was a major issue. Many of them had friends burned at the stake even by Constantine before his conversion to the Catholic Faith.
What would the Catholic Church decide about this issue? Ultimately, after much debate, the Church ruled that they can return, that Christ forgives them from the Cross through his Church.
There certainly had to be contrition so the penance would match the degree of the sin. Penance is a teaching that we see St. John the Baptist calling on those who were repenting through his baptism to produce good fruit as a sign of their repentance (Luke 3:8).
The Council of Nicaea through the foundation of the Council of Jerusalem recognized the importance of the Holy Spirit and the Church working together to do God’s will (Acts 15:28).
This is the foundation of all the Councils of the Church as the Lord promised the Holy Spirit’s role in the Church (John 14:26).
That through the voice of the Church the word of the Lord would be proclaimed (Luke 10:16).
This has to be the foundation of truth to understand the Inquisition. With the conversion of the Roman Empire, Christ began to transform society through his Church, the Kingdom of God on earth.
As the Church spread throughout the world, particularly in Europe, the foundation was laid so that when Rome fell in 476 A.D. the Church was the only thing left standing.
Countries were built with new constitutions built on the foundation of the gospel.
Naturally, the Church would receive the visible benefit as the Church was the spiritual authority.
The Catholic Church through the Apostolic Authority, would put the Bible together, continue to work on Canon Law, the Liturgy handing down that Apostolic Tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
The Churches foundation was set as the basis of the new Europe. Luke 14:15-24 gives the Lord’s missionary call, “One of his guests on hearing this said to him, ‘blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God’. He (Jesus) replied, ‘A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready’. But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused’. And another said, ‘I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come’. The servant went and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant,’ Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame’. The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out and still there is room’. The master then ordered the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and the hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled. For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner”.
It was understood that those who refused to attend the dinner were the Jews and the rejection of Israel. The “dinner” was opened to the poor, the cripple, the blind, and the lame who Christ identified the need of salvation, and to the Gentiles. The Kingdom of Christ is here and now through the Catholic Church.
In matters where there are those who are excommunicated (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) a tribunal was established to handle the many questions and issues that was being brought before the Church (Matthew 1815-20).
Heresy was against civil law as was Sodomy. Naturally, when serious heresies arose the civil authority referred to the Church.
King Fredrick II of Italy was the first to apply the Inquisition in 1231 primarily against Jewish converts who were seen as threatening the throne.
Pope Gregory IX followed suit early 1232 announced his Papal Bull “Excommnicarius” giving the authority of the Church to tribunals countering developing heresies (i.e. Cathari and Waldenses) throughout Christendom.
The name Inquisition is derived from the Latin verb “inquiro” which means to inquire. If a person was accused of heresy, they were brought before a tribunal to inquire from the accused what were their “doctrine”.
It is from this setting that our Fundamentalist friends will tell you that from 75,000,000 to 100,000,000 of people were killed by the Catholic Church.
If you were to listen to these anti-Catholic groups, the Catholic Church was a house of horrors. They certainly stretch the eyes of imagination, but they are totally mislead. Even at the worst possible number of those killed because of heresy, the highest number would be between 2,500 and 5,000 people.
9 of every 10 people accused of heresy were acquitted. Those that were found guilty of heresy were given the chance to recant and upon repentance, were given penance and absolution. In some of the major cases, confiscation of property and imprisonment were prescribed by the civil authority.
Even in the case of the most unrepentant heretic, if there was a capital punishment given, it was the civil authority, not the Church that carried out the sentence. I say this to show the distinction between civil authority and the Church authority.
The population of Europe during the Middle Ages were affected by a number of contributing factors most importantly the Bubonic Plague or “Black Death”.
The Black Death is estimated to have killed between 30% to 60% of the European population. Typhoid impacted thousands of people as did Anthrax which affected much of the food supply.
Germany is estimated to have lost about 40% of their population, Province lost an estimated 50% of their population while the area surrounding Tuscany lost nearly 70% of their population.
The Hundred Years War had it’s impact primarily due because nobles thought the decrease of people would affect their way of life so they continued fighting for more real estate and riches to maintain what they thought was their livelihood. Not to mention the Crusades which had an impact on the European population. To read more about the Crusades, please click here:
The Great Famine of 1315 was the result of unusual heavy rains that kept the temperatures cool causing widespread crop failures. This caused millions of deaths.
All of these problems have been historically proved to have affected European population during the Middle Ages. The Inquisition itself tried to preserve order in the face of wars, famines, and plagues. Were there wrongs committed by members of the Church? Yes there were.
Are there wrongs committed by members of the Church today? Yes there is! Catholics in Congress who support Gay rights, who support abortion are grave examples of injustice by Catholics today.
Catholics who believe they can dissent from official Church teaching and be ‘good’ Catholics are in danger of taking the name of the Lord in vain. It is a battle that I encourage people not to forsake St. Peter because of Judas.
St. Pope John Paul II acknowledged and led the Church to a period of reconciliation to those who were wronged in the past.
It’s interesting to note that no voice from the Fundamentalist have yet recognized the very wrongs they accuse the Catholic Church doing. Many Catholics were killed by Protestants, in the Americas whole tribes of Indians were wiped out by Protestant factions who then thanked God for it.
Protestants burned witches at the stake, they were cruel to those they enslaved. The Pope had it right by working towards forgiveness and reconciliation. Concerning the Kingdom of God, Jesus states, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from’? He answered, ‘An enemy has done this’. His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up’? He replied,’No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn”.
The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ who promised the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus promised he would remain with his Church until he returns (Matthew 28:20).
The Holy Spirit descends upon the Catholic Church and remains with the Church to keep the Church true to Jesus (John 14:15-31, Acts 2:1-13).
The following is an example of misrepresentations used to altar history. This questions the bible, it questions authority, it question the true Church. In truth, the Catholic safeguarded the Scripture, proclaimed the scripture to the “commoner”. This makes for a good story, but it’s a classic case of misrepresentation.