The Truth about the Spanish Inquisition

Because it was both professional and efficient, the Spanish Inquisition kept very good records. These documents are a goldmine for modern historians who have plunged greedily into them. Thus far, the fruits of that research have made one thing abundantly clear — the myth of the Spanish Inquisition has nothing at all to do with the real thing.

The scene is a plain-looking room with a door to the left. A pleasant young man, pestered by tedious and irrelevant questions, exclaims in a frustrated tone, “I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.” Suddenly the door bursts open to reveal Cardinal Ximinez flanked by Cardinal Fang and Cardinal Biggles. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” Ximinez shouts. “Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope…. Our four…no…. Amongst our weapons…amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise…. I’ll come in again.”

Anyone not living under a rock for the past 30 years will likely recognize this famous scene from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. In these sketches three scarlet-clad, inept inquisitors torture their victims with such instruments as pillows and comfy chairs. The whole thing is funny because the audience knows full well that the Spanish Inquisition was neither inept nor comfortable, but ruthless, intolerant, and deadly. One need not have read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum to have heard of the dark dungeons, sadistic churchmen, and excruciating tortures of the Spanish Inquisition. The rack, the iron maiden, the bonfires on which the Catholic Church dumped its enemies by the millions: These are all familiar icons of the Spanish Inquisition set firmly into our culture.

This image of the Spanish Inquisition is a useful one for those who have little love for the Catholic Church. Anyone wishing to beat the Church about the head and shoulders will not tarry long before grabbing two favorite clubs: the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. I have dealt with the Crusades in “The Real History of the Crusades.” Now on to the other club.

In order to understand the Spanish Inquisition, which began in the late 15th century, we must look briefly at its predecessor, the medieval Inquisition. Before we do, though, it’s worth pointing out that the medieval world was not the modern world. For medieval people, religion was not something one just did at church. It was their science, their philosophy, their politics, their identity, and their hope for salvation. It was not a personal preference but an abiding and universal truth. Heresy, then, struck at the heart of that truth. It doomed the heretic, endangered those near him, and tore apart the fabric of community. Medieval Europeans were not alone in this view. It was shared by numerous cultures around the world. The modern practice of universal religious toleration is itself quite new and uniquely Western.

Secular and ecclesiastical leaders in medieval Europe approached heresy in different ways. Roman law equated heresy with treason. Why? Because kingship was God-given, thus making heresy an inherent challenge to royal authority. Heretics divided people, causing unrest and rebellion. No Christian doubted that God would punish a community that allowed heresy to take root and spread. Kings and commoners, therefore, had good reason to find and destroy heretics wherever they found them — and they did so with gusto.

One of the most enduring myths of the Inquisition is that it was a tool of oppression imposed on unwilling Europeans by a power-hungry Church. Nothing could be more wrong. In truth, the Inquisition brought order, justice, and compassion to combat rampant secular and popular persecutions of heretics. When the people of a village rounded up a suspected heretic and brought him before the local lord, how was he to be judged? How could an illiterate layman determine if the accused’s beliefs were heretical or not? And how were witnesses to be heard and examined?

The medieval Inquisition began in 1184 when Pope Lucius III sent a list of heresies to Europe’s bishops and commanded them to take an active role in determining whether those accused of heresy were, in fact, guilty. Rather than relying on secular courts, local lords, or just mobs, bishops were to see to it that accused heretics in their dioceses were examined by knowledgeable churchmen using Roman laws of evidence. In other words, they were to “inquire” — thus, the term “inquisition.”

From the perspective of secular authorities, heretics were traitors to God and king and therefore deserved death. From the perspective of the Church, however, heretics were lost sheep that had strayed from the flock. As shepherds, the pope and bishops had a duty to bring those sheep back into the fold, just as the Good Shepherd had commanded them. So, while medieval secular leaders were trying to safeguard their kingdoms, the Church was trying to save souls. The Inquisition provided a means for heretics to escape death and return to the community.

Most people accused of heresy by the medieval Inquisition were either acquitted or their sentence suspended. Those found guilty of grave error were allowed to confess their sin, do penance, and be restored to the Body of Christ. The underlying assumption of the Inquisition was that, like lost sheep, heretics had simply strayed. If, however, an inquisitor determined that a particular sheep had purposely departed out of hostility to the flock, there was nothing more that could be done. Unrepentant or obstinate heretics were excommunicated and given over to the secular authorities. Despite popular myth, the Church did not burn heretics. It was the secular authorities that held heresy to be a capital offense. The simple fact is that the medieval Inquisition saved uncounted thousands of innocent (and even not-so-innocent) people who would otherwise have been roasted by secular lords or mob rule.

As the power of medieval popes grew, so too did the extent and sophistication of the Inquisition. The introduction of the Franciscans and Dominicans in the early 13th century provided the papacy with a corps of dedicated religious willing to devote their lives to the salvation of the world. Because their order had been created to debate with heretics and preach the Catholic faith, the Dominicans became especially active in the Inquisition. Following the most progressive law codes of the day, the Church in the 13th century formed inquisitorial tribunals answerable to Rome rather than local bishops. To ensure fairness and uniformity, manuals were written for inquisitorial officials. Bernard Gui, best known today as the fanatical and evil inquisitor in The Name of the Rose, wrote a particularly influential manual. There is no reason to believe that Gui was anything like his fictional portrayal.

By the 14th century, the Inquisition represented the best legal practices available. Inquisition officials were university-trained specialists in law and theology. The procedures were similar to those used in secular inquisitions (we call them “inquests” today, but it’s the same word).

The power of kings rose dramatically in the late Middle Ages. Secular rulers strongly supported the Inquisition because they saw it as an efficient way to ensure the religious health of their kingdoms. If anything, kings faulted the Inquisition for being too lenient on heretics. As in other areas of ecclesiastical control, secular authorities in the late Middle Ages began to take over the Inquisition, removing it from papal oversight. In France, for example, royal officials assisted by legal scholars at the University of Paris assumed control of the French Inquisition. Kings justified this on the belief that they knew better than the faraway pope how best to deal with heresy in their own kingdoms.

These dynamics would help to form the Spanish Inquisition — but there were others as well. Spain was in many ways quite different from the rest of Europe. Conquered by Muslim jihad in the eighth century, the Iberian peninsula had been a place of near constant warfare. Because borders between Muslim and Christian kingdoms shifted rapidly over the centuries, it was in most rulers’ interest to practice a fair degree of tolerance for other religions. The ability of Muslims, Christians, and Jews to live together, called convivencia by the Spanish, was a rarity in the Middle Ages. Indeed, Spain was the most diverse and tolerant place in medieval Europe. England expelled all of its Jews in 1290. France did the same in 1306. Yet in Spain Jews thrived at every level of society.

But it was perhaps inevitable that the waves of anti-Semitism that swept across medieval Europe would eventually find their way into Spain. Envy, greed, and gullibility led to rising tensions between Christians and Jews in the 14th century. During the summer of 1391, urban mobs in Barcelona and other towns poured into Jewish quarters, rounded up Jews, and gave them a choice of baptism or death. Most took baptism. The king of Aragon, who had done his best to stop the attacks, later reminded his subjects of well-established Church doctrine on the matter of forced baptisms — they don’t count. He decreed that any Jews who accepted baptism to avoid death could return to their religion.

But most of these new converts, or conversos, decided to remain Catholic. There were many reasons for this. Some believed that apostasy made them unfit to be Jewish. Others worried that returning to Judaism would leave them vulnerable to future attacks. Still others saw their baptism as a way to avoid the increasing number of restrictions and taxes imposed on Jews. As time passed, the conversos settled into their new religion, becoming just as pious as other Catholics. Their children were baptized at birth and raised as Catholics. But they remained in a cultural netherworld. Although Christian, most conversos still spoke, dressed, and ate like Jews. Many continued to live in Jewish quarters so as to be near family members. The presence of conversos had the effect of Christianizing Spanish Judaism. This in turn led to a steady stream of voluntary conversions to Catholicism.

In 1414 a debate was held in Tortosa between Christian and Jewish leaders. Pope Benedict XIII himself attended. On the Christian side was the papal physician, Jerónimo de Santa Fe, who had recently converted from Judaism. The debate brought about a wave of new voluntary conversions. In Aragon alone, 3,000 Jews received baptism. All of this caused a good deal of tension between those who remained Jewish and those who became Catholic. Spanish rabbis after 1391 had considered conversos to be Jews, since they had been forced into baptism. Yet by 1414, rabbis repeatedly stressed that conversos were indeed true Christians, since they had voluntarily left Judaism.

By the mid-15th century, a whole new converso culture was flowering in Spain — Jewish in ethnicity and culture, but Catholic in religion. Conversos, whether new converts themselves or the descendants of converts, took enormous pride in that culture. Some even asserted that they were better than the “Old Christians,” since as Jews they were related by blood to Christ Himself. When the converso bishop of Burgos, Alonso de Cartagena, prayed the Hail Mary, he would say with pride, “Holy Mary, Mother of God and my blood relative, pray for us sinners…”

The expansion of converso wealth and power in Spain led to a backlash, particularly among aristocratic and middle-class Old Christians. They resented the arrogance of the conversos and envied their successes. Several tracts were written demonstrating that virtually every noble bloodline in Spain had been infiltrated by conversos. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories abounded. The conversos, it was said, were part of an elaborate Jewish plot to take over the Spanish nobility and the Catholic Church, destroying both from within. The conversos, according to this logic, were not sincere Christians but secret Jews.

Modern scholarship has definitively shown that, like most conspiracy theories, this one was pure imagination. The vast majority of conversos were good Catholics who simply took pride in their Jewish heritage. Surprisingly, many modern authors — indeed, many Jewish authors — have embraced these anti-Semitic fantasies. It is common today to hear that the conversos really were secret Jews, struggling to keep their faith hidden under the tyranny of Catholicism. Even the American Heritage Dictionary describes “converso ” as “a Spanish or Portuguese Jew who converted outwardly to Christianity in the late Middle Ages so as to avoid persecution or expulsion, though often continuing to practice Judaism in secret.” This is simply false.

But the constant drumbeat of accusations convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that the matter of secret Jews should at least be investigated. Responding to their request, Pope Sixtus IV issued a bull on November 1, 1478, allowing the crown to form an inquisitorial tribunal consisting of two or three priests over the age of 40. As was now the custom, the monarchs would have complete authority over the inquisitors and the inquisition. Ferdinand, who had many Jews and conversos in his court, was not at first overly enthusiastic about the whole thing. Two years elapsed before he finally appointed two men. Thus began the Spanish Inquisition.

King Ferdinand seems to have believed that the inquiry would turn up little. He was wrong. A tinderbox of resentment and hatred exploded across Spain as the enemies of conversos — both Christian and Jewish — came out of the woodwork to denounce them. Score-settling and opportunism were the primary motivators. Nevertheless, the sheer volume of accusations overwhelmed the inquisitors. They asked for and received more assistants, but the larger the Inquisition became, the more accusations it received. At last even Ferdinand was convinced that the problem of secret Jews was real.

In this early stage of the Spanish Inquisition, Old Christians and Jews used the tribunals as a weapon against their converso enemies. Since the Inquisition’s sole purpose was to investigate conversos, the Old Christians had nothing to fear from it. Their fidelity to the Catholic faith was not under investigation (although it was far from pure). As for the Jews, they were immune to the Inquisition. Remember, the purpose of an inquisition was to find and correct the lost sheep of Christ’s flock. It had no jurisdiction over other flocks. Those who get their history from Mel Brooks’s History of the World, Part I will perhaps be surprised to learn that all of those Jews enduring various tortures in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition are nothing more than a product of Brooks’s fertile imagination. Spain’s Jews had nothing to fear from the Spanish Inquisition.

In the early, rapidly expanding years, there was plenty of abuse and confusion. Most accused conversos were acquitted, but not all. Well-publicized burnings — often because of blatantly false testimony — justifiably frightened other conversos. Those with enemies often fled town before they could be denounced. Everywhere they looked, the inquisitors found more accusers. As the Inquisition expanded into Aragon, the hysteria levels reached new heights. Pope Sixtus IV attempted to put a stop to it. On April 18, 1482, he wrote to the bishops of Spain:

In Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, and Catalonia the Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls but by lust for wealth. Many true and faithful Christians, on the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves, and other lower and even less proper persons, have without any legitimate proof been thrust into secular prisons, tortured and condemned as relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and property and handed over to the secular arm to be executed, to the peril of souls, setting a pernicious example, and causing disgust to many.

Sixtus ordered the bishops to take a direct role in all future tribunals. They were to ensure that the Church’s well-established norms of justice were respected. The accused were to have legal counsel and the right to appeal their case to Rome.

In the Middle Ages, the pope’s commands would have been obeyed. But those days were gone. King Ferdinand was outraged when he heard of the letter. He wrote to Sixtus, openly suggesting that the pope had been bribed with converso gold:

Things have been told me, Holy Father, which, if true, would seem to merit the greatest astonishment.… To these rumors, however, we have given no credence because they seem to be things which would in no way have been conceded by Your Holiness who has a duty to the Inquisition. But if by chance concessions have been made through the persistent and cunning persuasion of the conversos, I intend never to let them take effect. Take care therefore not to let the matter go further, and to revoke any concessions and entrust us with the care of this question.

That was the end of the papacy’s role in the Spanish Inquisition. It would henceforth be an arm of the Spanish monarchy, separate from ecclesiastical authority. It is odd, then, that the Spanish Inquisition is so often today described as one of the Catholic Church’s great sins. The Catholic Church as an institution had almost nothing to do with it.

In 1483 Ferdinand appointed
Tomás de Torquemada as inquistor-general for most of Spain. It was Torquemada’s job to establish rules of evidence and procedure for the Inquisition as well as to set up branches in major cities. Sixtus confirmed the appointment, hoping that it would bring some order to the situation.

Unfortunately, the problem only snowballed. This was a direct result of the methods employed by the early Spanish Inquisition, which strayed significantly from Church standards. When the inquisitors arrived in a particular area, they would announce an Edict of Grace. This was a 30-day period in which secret Jews could voluntarily come forward, confess their sin, and do penance. This was also a time for others with information about Christians practicing Judaism in secret to make it known to the tribunal. Those found guilty after the 30 days elapsed could be burned at the stake.

For conversos, then, the arrival of the Inquisition certainly focused the mind. They generally had plenty of enemies, any one of whom might decide to bear false witness. Or perhaps their cultural practices were sufficient for condemnation? Who knew? Most conversos, therefore, either fled or lined up to confess. Those who did neither risked an inquiry in which any kind of hearsay or evidence, no matter how old or suspicious, was acceptable.

Opposition in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to the Spanish Inquisition only increased. Many churchmen pointed out that it was contrary to all accepted practices for heretics to be burned without instruction in the Faith. If the conversos were guilty at all, it was merely of ignorance, not willful heresy. Numerous clergy at the highest levels complained to Ferdinand. Opposition to the Spanish Inquisition also continued in Rome. Sixtus’s successor, Innocent VIII, wrote twice to the king asking for greater compassion, mercy, and leniency for the conversos — but to no avail.

As the Spanish Inquisition picked up steam, those involved became increasingly convinced that Spain’s Jews were actively seducing the conversos back into their old faith. It was a silly idea, no more real than the previous conspiracy theories. But Ferdinand and Isabella were influenced by it. Both of the monarchs had Jewish friends and confidants, but they also felt that their duty to their Christian subjects impelled them to remove the danger. Beginning in 1482, they expelled Jews from specific areas where the trouble seemed greatest. Over the next decade, though, they were under increasing pressure to remove the perceived threat. The Spanish Inquisition, it was argued, could never succeed in bringing the conversos back into the fold while the Jews undermined its work. Finally, on March 31, 1492, the monarchs issued an edict expelling all Jews from Spain.

Ferdinand and Isabella expected that their edict would result in the conversion of most of the remaining Jews in their kingdom. They were largely correct. Many Jews in high positions, including those in the royal court, accepted baptism immediately. In 1492 the Jewish population of Spain numbered about 80,000. About half were baptized and thereby kept their property and livelihoods. The rest departed, but many of them eventually returned to Spain, where they received baptism and had their property restored. As far as the Spanish Inquisition was concerned, the expulsion of the Jews meant that the caseload of conversos was now much greater.

The first 15 years of the Spanish Inquisition, under the direction of Torquemada, were the deadliest. Approximately 2,000 conversos were put to the flames. By 1500, however, the hysteria had calmed. Torquemada’s successor, the cardinal archbishop of Toledo, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, worked hard to reform the Inquisition, removing bad apples and reforming procedures. Each tribunal was given two Dominican inquisitors, a legal adviser, a constable, a prosecutor, and a large number of assistants. With the exception of the two Dominicans, all of these were royal lay officials. The Spanish Inquisition was largely funded by confiscations, but these were not frequent or great. Indeed, even at its peak the Inquisition was always just making ends meet.After the reforms, the Spanish Inquisition had very few critics. Staffed by well-educated legal professionals, it was one of the most efficient and compassionate judicial bodies in Europe. No major court in Europe executed fewer people than the Spanish Inquisition. This was a time, after all, when damaging shrubs in a public garden in London carried the death penalty. Across Europe, executions were everyday events. But not so with the Spanish Inquisition. In its 350-year lifespan only about 4,000 people were put to the stake. Compare that with the witch-hunts that raged across the rest of Catholic and Protestant Europe, in which 60,000 people, mostly women, were roasted. Spain was spared this hysteria precisely because the Spanish Inquisition stopped it at the border. When the first accusations of witchcraft surfaced in northern Spain, the Inquisition sent its people to investigate. These trained legal scholars found no believable evidence for witches’ Sabbaths, black magic, or baby roasting. It was also noted that those confessing to witchcraft had a curious inability to fly through keyholes. While Europeans were throwing women onto bonfires with abandon, the Spanish Inquisition slammed the door shut on this insanity. (For the record, the Roman Inquisition also kept the witch craze from infecting Italy.)

What about the dark dungeons and torture chambers? The Spanish Inquisition had jails, of course. But they were neither especially dark nor dungeon-like. Indeed, as far as prisons go, they were widely considered to be the best in Europe. There were even instances of criminals in Spain purposely blaspheming so as to be transferred to the Inquisition’s prisons. Like all courts in Europe, the Spanish Inquisition used torture. But it did so much less often than other courts. Modern researchers have discovered that the Spanish Inquisition applied torture in only 2 percent of its cases. Each instance of torture was limited to a maximum of 15 minutes. In only 1 percent of the cases was torture applied twice and never for a third time.

The inescapable conclusion is that
, by the standards of its time, the Spanish Inquisition was positively enlightened. That was the assessment of most Europeans until 1530. It was then that the Spanish Inquisition turned its attention away from the conversos and toward the new Protestant Reformation. The people of Spain and their monarchs were determined that Protestantism would not infiltrate their country as it had Germany and France. The Inquisition’s methods did not change. Executions and torture remained rare. But its new target would forever change its image.

By the mid-16th century, Spain was the wealthiest and most powerful country in Europe. King Philip II saw himself and his countrymen as faithful defenders of the Catholic Church. Less wealthy and less powerful were Europe’s Protestant areas, including the Netherlands, northern Germany, and England. But they did have a potent new weapon: the printing press. Although the Spanish defeated Protestants on the battlefield, they would lose the propaganda war. These were the years when the famous “Black Legend” of Spain was forged. Innumerable books and pamphlets poured from northern presses accusing the Spanish Empire of inhuman depravity and horrible atrocities in the New World. Opulent Spain was cast as a place of darkness, ignorance, and evil. Although modern scholars have long ago discarded the Black Legend, it still remains very much alive today. Quick: Think of a good conquistador.

Protestant propaganda that took aim at the Spanish Inquisition drew liberally from the Black Legend. But it had other sources as well. From the beginning of the Reformation, Protestants had difficulty explaining the 15-century gap between Christ’s institution of His Church and the founding of the Protestant churches. Catholics naturally pointed out this problem, accusing Protestants of having created a new church separate from that of Christ. Protestants countered that their church was the one created by Christ but that it had been forced underground by the Catholic Church. Thus, just as the Roman Empire had persecuted Christians, so its successor, the Roman Catholic Church, continued to persecute them throughout the Middle Ages. Inconveniently, there were no Protestants in the Middle Ages, yet Protestant authors found them anyway in the guise of various medieval heresies. (They were underground, after all.)In this light, the medieval Inquisition was nothing more than an attempt to crush the hidden, true church. The Spanish Inquisition, still active and extremely efficient at keeping Protestants out of Spain, was for Protestant writers merely the latest version of this persecution. Mix liberally with the Black Legend, and you have everything you need to produce tract after tract about the hideous and cruel Spanish Inquisition. And so they did.

The Spanish people loved their Inquisition. That is why it lasted for so long. It stood guard against error and heresy, protecting the faith of Spain and ensuring the favor of God. But the world was changing. In time, Spain’s empire faded away. Wealth and power shifted to the north, in particular to France and England. By the late 17th century, new ideas of religious tolerance were bubbling across the coffeehouses and salons of Europe. Inquisitions, both Catholic and Protestant, withered. The Spanish stubbornly held on to theirs, and for that, they were ridiculed. French philosophers like Voltaire saw in Spain a model of the Middle Ages: weak, barbaric, superstitious. The Spanish Inquisition, already established as a bloodthirsty tool of religious persecution, was derided by Enlightenment thinkers as a brutal weapon of intolerance and ignorance. A new, fictional Spanish Inquisition had been constructed, designed by the enemies of Spain and the Catholic Church.

This article originally appeared in the September 2003 issue of Crisis Magazine.


Thomas F. Madden is associate professor and chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University. His latest book is Empires of Trust: How Rome Built—And America Is Building—A New World.

  • voltaire

    The good professor leaves the most important thing out. The conversos were by and large good Catholics. But racial considerations arose. It was ironic that having first created the problem of conversos by violent pogroms in the 14th Century the Catholics of Spain then proceeded to believe that baptism did not make real Catholics, only race did. This was a forerunner of Nazi racism. The Spanish Inquisition was granted not as brutal as has often been pretended. But in its development of racism it was truly horrific.

  • Scott W.

    The good commentor “voltaire” leaves the most important thing out. A source substantiating his claims.

  • Jim McD

    I find Voltaire’s post strange. He must not have actually read Professor Madden’s essay all the way. The Professor made it abundantly clear the conversos were good Catholics.

    Pogroms? Really? What evidence of that is in this essay? Obviously, none. Without the pogrom assertion, however, Voltaire’s diversion into Nazi racism would make no sense!

    Voltaire’s last sentence implies that racism was nonexistent until the Spanish Inquisition. That assertion is ludicrous on its face.

    Professor Madden, excellent essay! Unsurprisingly, I had never heard, read, or seen the true facts until now. Many thanks!

  • John Jennings


    I’ve been referred here from a post on Watts Up With That, a site concerned with an intellectual discussion about Climate Change.

    Very interesting to have one’s historic viewpoint enlightened. I am not comfortable with the current hysteria about the ‘church’s’ role in history as so many of us can read because of the selfless work of church people. However there are still many questions given the current abuse controversies, that need to be answered. I still think the overarching Christian tenent of ‘being nice’ to people is worthwhile.
    Cheers and thanks for the article I’ll need to read further. JJ

  • antigon

    “During the summer of 1391, urban mobs in Barcelona and other towns poured into Jewish quarters, rounded up Jews, and gave them a choice of baptism or death. Most took baptism.”

    JMcD: Since many refused baptism, they presumably were killed (as I believe history attests), which can be fairly considered a pogrom. Thus, with apologies, perhaps a beam of thine own was responsible for the careless reading.

    As to racism, one suspects its somewhat liquid modern idea was not much prevalent in the Middle Ages, nor the reality either. Doubtless the French thought themselves superior to the English & vice versa, & of course the Talmud’s distinctions of Jew & Gentile were not unknown, but surely class was a more dominant feature in the various miscarriages of justice in that age.

    Though currently fashionable, one fears M. Voltaire’s analysis is nonetheless a trifle glib. While we can be confident envy & malice infected much, as possibly that a notable number of conversos, including a prominent Bishop, did in fact repudiate their baptism once out of Spain, even a cursory reading of Mr. Madden’s piece shows that most conversos remained, & remained Spanish. Interestingly, General Franco was among their descendants.

    One doesn’t really need such conclusive evidence though, since a bit of common sense will suffice. Against Christ’s own words in the Gospels condemning the hegemony of race, a small gaggle of Spanish heretics may have argued baptism useless before racial determinism; but there was no soil for such an idea in Christian Europe. Indeed, it would not be surprising to learn from Inquisitorial records that among the executed were some who tried.

    The reality, of course, is that for the weed of racial determinism to flourish, necessary first was the destruction of Christian Europe.

  • John Paul II ruminator

    according to John Paul II in section 80 of Splendor of the Truth . If he is correct, Madden’s amelioration of it here by historical context is incorrect. An intrinsic evil should be recognized as evil no matter what period one lives in. If Pope Nicholas I in Ad Consulta Vestra knew torture was wrong in 866 AD, how can Madden excuse it centuries later than 866 AD by telling us we can’t superimpose modernity on the period. Let’s superimpose antiquity and a papal bull on the period.
    And another question…..why do we now find Latin America with a highly sexualized popular culture which is plain to see on our own TV’s on Telemundo and Unision. How did the Inquisition countries produce countries in which women sing In little more than bikini’s. There’s actually one show in which women dance in bikini’s to Latin music. How is it the Inquisition countries produced in the long run three countries that lead in the cocaine trade? Could there be a connection between coercive dominators and their production of low grade cultures because of that domination? Just sayin’.

    Pope Nicholas I….866 AD:

    “If a [putative] thief or bandit is apprehended and denies the charges against him, you tell me your custom is for a judge to beat him with blows to the head and tear the sides of his body with other sharp iron goads until he confesses the truth. Such a procedure is totally unacceptable under both divine and human law (quam rem nec divina lex nec humana prorsus admittit), since a confession should be spontaneous, not forced. It should be proffered voluntarily, not violently extorted.”

  • bill bannon

    He notes above:

    “Despite popular myth, the Church did not burn heretics. It was the secular authorities that held heresy to be a capital offense.” ( WRONG….see Catholic Encyclopedia below).

    Go to New Advent (Catholic site with Catholic Encyclopedia)… go to Inquisition in the search engine…go down to “the new tribunal”
    then fo to section d where it will state the direct opposite of Madden….that Popes made it mandatory for secular rulers to burn heretics under the pain of excommunication…’ll see the turning point to be mid 13th century:

    ” Frederick II was of the same opinion; in his Constitution of 1224 he says that heretics convicted by an ecclesiastical court shall, on imperial authority, suffer death by fire (auctoritate nostra ignis iudicio concremandos), and similarly in 1233 “praesentis nostrae legis edicto damnatos mortem pati decernimus.” In this way Gregory IX may be regarded as having had no share either directly or indirectly in the death of condemned heretics. Not so the succeeding popes.In the Bull “Ad exstirpanda” (1252) Innocent IV says:

    When those adjudged guilty of heresy have been given up to the civil power by the bishop or his representative, or the Inquisition, the podest

  • bill bannon

    “The civil authorities, therefore, were enjoined by the popes, under pain of excommunication to execute the legal sentences that condemned impenitent heretics to the stake.”….Catholic Encyclopedia

    the opposite of Madden

  • digdigby

    To believing Jews, baptism and professing allegiance to Christianity is rank idolatry and one is NOT allowed even under threat of death to do so. It is THE great sin. That this view ‘softened’ among the Jews of Spain means the Spanish Jews lost a key element of their faith and were ‘corrupted’ – the ‘blending’ of Jews and Spanish Catholics was existentially dangerous to Judaism itself and in the end to Spanish Catholicism.

    From what scholarly accounts I have read I seriously doubt that the Conversos were all ‘Good Catholics’ but rather many of them were opportunists and were a danger to both the Church and the State in Spain. The powerful ‘separateness’ and tribalism of Judaism rooted in ancient divine election operated, I believe, in a profane way among the conversos i.e. networking, one hand washes the other, ‘put in a good word’ etc.

  • Randall

    One classic and well-documented example showing that the medieval inquisition was not completely benign was the trial of the Templars. Yes, this was spurred by the French king, with his prodding to continue it, but nonetheless, men were burned, tortured, starved and beaten. Oft quoted example of one whose feet were burned so badly that the bones of his feet were sloughed and he carried them into his trial. True that they were unlikely to represent the majority of cases, but there were enough Templars who suffered under this inquisition to sully the whole thing.

  • Subvet

    “The inescapable conclusion is that, by the standards of its time, the Spanish Inquisition was positively enlightened.”

    All critics please note the qualifier here, “…the standards of its time…”

    If you’re expecting a revisionist history that makes the Inquisition a creampuff of an ordeal, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Those were rough, barbarous times by our standards. So would the Spanish Inquisition seem, but the author is putting it into the perspective of the time it existed.

  • Jeno

    As a graduate student of history who has a concentration on early modern Spain, and has written a seminar paper on the Spanish Inquisition, I must say that Dr. Madden’s concise essay touches upon many of the noteworthy debates in the field. Although he does not dive into the details of the historiography, Madden’s understanding of the major key themes in the field is spot on. (If you disagree with Professor Madden I suggest you read Henry Kamen’s seminal work “The Spanish Inquisition.”)

  • V

    …most treatments of the Spanish Inquisition discuss Jews as this article does, but I am curious how Muslims fit into the inquisition. Were they all expelled after the reconquista?

  • Matthew Kennel

    This article does make some good distinctions about the various Inquisitions, but there seem to be a few holes

    1) Given, on the one hand, all the statistics cited, and, on the other hand, the great fury with which men attack the Church for this, one might have liked to have seen some kind of footnotes with references to academic publications.

    2) The author writes, “[The Spanish Inquisition] would henceforth be an arm of the Spanish monarchy, separate from ecclesiastical authority,” but then goes on to note that the Inquisition was later led by Torquemada, who was a Dominican, and by Francisco Jim

  • Terry

    As far as I know, with the capitulation of Granada, the Moslem subjects of the Spanish Crown were promised freedom to practice their religion. There was also a campaign by a more moderate confessor of the Queen to prosyletize to them and give them time to willingly convert. Unfortunately, the policy changed, things got more violent and once again the oxymoron of “forced conversions” ocurred. Moslem rebellions occured, some of them incited by religious intolerance on the part of the Crown. The Monarchs I think were also afraid that the Moslems of Southern Spain would act as a 5th Column in warfare with Moslem North Africa, or call on forces from Africa to aid them. I think by the mid 1500’s, the Moslems and many conversos who had Moslem ancestors were expelled. I remember reading that this led to a near collaspe of irrigated agriculture in Southern Spain. Perhaps the professor can fill in the blanks and correct any of my errors.

    One thing I have been left to ponder about is how the Inquisition and forced conversions affected the religious psyche of Spain. I’m perhaps under the biased impression that it led to a outward, showy form of religiosity among the populace that was unmatched by a comparable sense of moral discipline and interior contemplation. Conversos during the Inquisition must have had a strong incentive to outwardly display or prove their Catholicism, no?

    While the Inquisition was operative, the country no doubt produced great saints like St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Teresa de Avila and St. John of the Cross, however after living in Spain for a half a year, I lost the notion of Spain being a “Catholic country”. For example, they have big processions for the Holy Week, but from what I saw, most people use that time to travel on vacation, and everybody seemed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. I was really suprised to have to explain on several ocassions why I didn’t eat meat on Lenten Fridays to Spanish people. Granted I was in Madrid most of the time; I assume the countryside is more “Catholic” so to speak, but basically, me and my Korean friend got used to being two of the token young adults at Mass in what I had previously assumed was a “very Catholic country”. While there’s a significant Catholic population in the country, there’s also a lot flat out rejection of the Church. It’s sad, but I’m not surpised considering how politics, religion and oppression were intertwined throughout Spanish history.

    I would say that while Spanish Inquisition wasn’t as diabolical or deadly as many imagine it, it’s still a very dark stain on Spain and the Church. Christ never taught “excute non-beleivers or apostasizers.” If anything, that’s something from out of Muhammad’s Book, not the Gospel. Yet whether motivated by religious zeal or greed and personal vendettas, self-professing Christians did this in 15th and 16th century Spain.

  • Sam.

    Real quick–a reply to your last paragraph. “Christ never taught ‘execute non-believers or apostates.'” However, He did say to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. The good professor above states that “Roman law equated heresy with treason. Why? Because kingship was God-given, thus making heresy an inherent challenge to royal authority. Heretics divided people, causing unrest and rebellion.” The persecution of heretics thus was a matter of national security–the heretics were killed because of the effects of their heresy, not for their heresy itself.

  • George

    Re: The Papal Bull “Ad exstirpanda”

    An informative and enjoyable article.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia (circa 1917) is by today’s internet standards an ancient document. The Papal Bull is mentioned above. This Bull cited by both the Catholic Encyclopedia and several English and American Protestant authorities as introducing torture and the Inquisition into Catholic jurisprudence.

    However thanks to modern technology and scholarship we now know that Pope Innocent’s 1252 Bull did not mention either the words “torture” or “inquisition”.



  • Yehoshua Friedman

    Just look up Luke 19:27.

  • simpy…..

    no one said it used those words. Reread the encyclopedia article. The word purgatory is not in the Bible either….what do you conclude from that. “Ad” simply refers to executing the laws…..which required burning for heretics in the Empire….but now Popes were commanding that those secular laws be employed pronto or the seculars were excommunicated.

  • simpy…..

    Sam….then where are rebellions against the empire by heretics if any and how large were they?

  • Othersam

    I am amused that one of the readers thinks that the time of the inquisition was “barbarous” compared with our current enlightened standards. Do people simply forget that the 20th century happened? More people were slaughtered, displaced, tortured and imprisoned for secular political reasons in the last 100 years than were killed in all the religious wars and inquisitions of the past combined. The recent past is, incontestably, the most barbarous epoch in human history.

  • Joseph E.

    “Christ never taught “excute non-beleivers or apostasizers.” If anything, that’s something from out of Muhammad’s Book, not the Gospel.”

    Neither did Christians. What Christians were afraid of were people impregnating the Christian community with error. This is the ‘heresy’ spoken of. No body was persecuted for becoming Jewish or Muslim. Even today people whose ideas are not in consonance with the Christian communities they profess to belong to are excommunicated. In the past this had civil consequences.

  • bill bannon

    But after 1252, the civil consequences were mandated by Popes under pain of excommunication…..see Catholic Encyclopedia on Inquisition way above. That is why almost three hundred years later, Pope Leo X condemns Luther’s position against burning heretics in Ex Surge Domine article 33…..1520 A.D.

  • bill bannon

    “When those adjudged guilty of heresy have been given up to the civil power by the bishop or his representative, or the Inquisition, the podest

  • George


    Re: The Papal Bull “Ad exstirpanda”

    Pope Innocent’s 1252 Bull, “Ad exstirpanda”, was not a solemn teaching on faith or morals directed to the universal faithful. Rather it was an administrative document consisting of about 33 “laws” directed to a small portion of Italy which had recently fallen under the Pope’s control vice the Emperor.

    In his Bull Innocent directed the secular authorities when in doubt to refer to the previous Imperial laws which had been in place prior to Papal secular control. The laws were based on the Imperial Constitution of Melfi which, among other things, banned, trial by combat, trail by fire, torture and burnings at the stake. The Constitutions of Melfi applied only to Imperial holdings in Italy and not throughout the rest of the Empire.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia is not a teaching document produced by the Catholic Church. Rather it is an information document produced by the American Knights of Columbus. It is not only almost a century out of date but light years behind modern scholarship aided by 21st Century technology.



  • Bill Bannon

    Your words are Italisized….mine emboldened:

    Pope Innocent’s 1252 Bull, “Ad exstirpanda”, was not a solemn teaching on faith or morals directed to the universal faithful. Rather it was an administrative document consisting of about 33 “laws” directed to a small portion of Italy which had recently fallen under the Pope’s control vice the Emperor.

    . Not so…the bull’s referred laws were entered into canon law thus becoming universal. Laws imply a belief system. You don’t endorse a law to burn if you believe in no burning. Conduct…burning…..was found shortly after being enforced in Spain….and its gradual ubiquity is proved by Pope Leo X’s universal condemnation of Luther opposing burning heretics at the stake in Ex Surge Domine in 1520 AD which you’ve had years to read…..give in and read it even though it turns over your theory of Popes never affirming burning universally.

    In his Bull Innocent directed the secular authorities when in doubt to refer to the previous Imperial laws which had been in place prior to Papal secular control. The laws were based on the Imperial Constitution of Melfi which, among other things, banned, trial by combat, trail by fire, torture and burnings at the stake. The Constitutions of Melfi applied only to Imperial holdings in Italy and not throughout the rest of the Empire.

    Not at all. The Catholic Encyclopedia disagrees….the book which you diss as local also….was not…..the authors were world wide and has for examples essays by Arthur Vermeesch S.J. who was the leading Moral Theologian during that time period and helped Pius XI with Casti Connubii. Another author was John Hagen SJ from the Vatican observatory. Another was John Healy, senator of the Royal University of Scotland / Georges Goyau, Paris / Gustave Mutel, Seoul, Korea / Patrick Francis Moran, primate of Australia…..And the Inquisition author, Joseph Blotzer who wrote Die Katholikenemanzipation in Grossbritannien Und Irland in 1905
    ……so he wasn’t from Brooklyn either.

    Our German author then writes this which never mentions your Theory:

    “Nor could any doubt remain as to what civil regulations were
    meant, for the passages which ordered the burning of impenitent heretics were inserted in the papal decretals from the imperial constitutions “Commissis nobis” and “Inconsutibilem tunicam”.

    So you George say it was the Constitutions of Melfi and he does not…..but you George told us that the Catholic Encyclopedia was an information document by the Knights of Columbus and I don’t think so.. Strange that it has authors of the highest rank and from all parts of the globe and two involved with the Vatican….and one with a major encyclical. Until you give us a published modern author by a major publisher who supports your data George…..until that time, I think we would be foolish to take your word over the author of Die Katholikenemanzipation in Grossbritannien Und Irland (1905)…..and too because whether written in 1913 or yesterday…..the data involves what was inserted in the decretals. They say the two above and you say Melfi….but you cite nothing outside your sworn word….and this is the internet, George. [/ B]

  • George

    Re: “The Pope is referring to the civil laws for burning heretics but he is mandating that it be done fast….within 5 days they are to be burned per the already written punishments.”

    In 1252 AD in that portion of Italy affected by the Papal Bull titled “Ad exstirpanda” there were no secular laws mandating the burning of heretics. Nor were there any heretics burned under the authority of Innocent’s Bull Ad exstirpanda” in 1252 AD in that portion of Italy. After 1252 AD that portion of Italy in question fell back under the secular control of the Emperor who forbade the burning of heretics in his Italian possessions.



  • George

    Re: Was the Bull “Ad exstirpanda” entered into Canon Law?

    The first collection of Church laws after the 1252 Bull “Ad exstirpanda” appeared in the “Liber Sextus” published around 1298 AD. The Papal Bull “Ad exstirpanda” did not appear in the “Liber Sextus”.

    Canon law applies to the entire universal church. “Ad exstirpanda”, as mentioned above, applied only to a portion of Italy and then only while under the secular control of the Papacy.



  • Bill Bannon

    I believe you are the same anti torture poster who once had an unusual name for Fr. Brian Harrison in these very pages but I liked your longer moniker better…British wasn’t it….Comerford?…or something? If so, you will simply assert repeatedly with never a reference outside your assertions.

    wiki has zero on a creative relationship between the Catholic Encyclopedia and the knights of Columbus. I suspect at some point they may have funded free ones for colleges through their Catholic Information Services. But Robert Appleton published it.

  • Bill Bannon

    Ex Surge Domini which affirmed burning at the stake…..which you avoided back then months ago. Rigidity is one of your tells.

  • George Dwyer

    There appears to be some confusion here between the acts of capital punishment and torture. Although capital punishment can certainly look like torture, as in burning at the stake, it is not the same thing.

    The Church allows capital punishment. It does not allow torture.


    George Dwyer

  • Bill Bannon

    Torture was stopped in papal territories in 1816 by one Pope….which means it was approved by the Church til then.
    The history is here [url=.…lt119.html

  • George

    Morals are higher than laws. Some Popes as secular rulers have codified immoral practices such as the cruel treatment of galley slaves in the Papal Navy and the use of torture by the Roman Inquisition. For many years now the laws under which the Vatican Bank operates have been under scrutiny. That does not mean the Catholic Faith allows theft, torture or the owning of galley slaves.


    George Dwyer

  • Bill Bannon

    the Catholic Faith…..if you are speaking of de fide… a lot smaller than Catholic teaching…non de fide… which included burning at the stake which only on Mars is not torture.

  • George

    The question is raised that if capital punishment hurts too much than it is no longer execution but torture? An execution may be carried out in a particularly horrid manner. But it is still an execution. A torture session may be carried out in a polite and even in a relatively gentle manner but it is still torture.

    The Church, however reluctantly, allows capital punishment even the burning of the condemned at the stake. But still, no matter how gently and politely it is done, the Church does not allow torture condemning it as a violation of the Divine Law.



  • Bill Bannon

    errr….Richard…..I think Jan Hus would disagree.

  • George

    Huss fell into the hands of the anti-Pope John XXIII. A Church proceeding found him guilty of heresy. He was surrendered to the secular authority. The secular authority sentenced him to be executed. Huss was burned at the stake by the secular authority. There is no record of an order by either Church or secular authority to torture Huss.


    George Dwyer Jr.

  • Perelandra

    I never cease to be amazed at some Catholics’ blind allegiance to the old CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA. Yes, its articles were written by experts–using the data available a century ago. Vastly more is known about the Spanish and other versions of the Inquisition is known now because actual trial records have been studied and tabulated. I object to commentors’ ignorant attacks on Prof. Madden’s good historical overview.
    Sandra Miesel

    Henry Kamen has already been cited.His books, INQUISITION AND SOCIETY IN SPAIN and THE SPANISH INQUISITION are essential studies. For rebuttal of the Black Legend of the Inquisition, see INQUISITION by Edward Peters (a historian, not our canonist). His TORTURE and THE MAGICIAN, THE WITCH AND THE LAW are also relevant here. THE SPANISH INQUISITION by Helen Rawlings is a short recent synthesis of current research. Ben-Zion Netanyahu’s ORIGINS OF THE INQUISITION proposes racial motivation but has not won general acceptance. William Monter’s RITUAL, MYTH AND MAGIC IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE includes interesting statistics on Inquistional actions against: conversos, Protestants, heterodox and superstitious Catholics, Moriscos, witches, moral offenses (bigamy, blasphemy, sodomy, bestiality, clerical lust), and forbidden books. Go learn something!

  • Bill Bannon

    Check again on safe passage promised to him… whom?

  • Bill Bannon

    Did Sandra post within your post? Are you Sandra? If not, why is she not enquoted? The correction that the Catholic Encyclopedia makes of Madden is that it shows that Popes made burning at the stake mandatory after 1252 even though it began as a secular punishment.
    Cite how any recent book has anything to do at all with correcting that small but important detail in the encyclopedia version. Why cite a list of books when you could have shown from one a corrective to the Blotzer piece?

  • Terry

    To Sam: I understand your point about heresy being a secular crime and political threat. The fact that unrepentant heretics could be punished with execution by civil government at the time only points out the problem with the political system and its mixing of religion and politics. Previously, Roman Law was used by the Pagan emperors to persecute and execute Christians who refused to offer sacrifices to the Emperor and the traditional Roman Pantheon. Once you had emperors and kings who supported Christianity as the religion of the empire/kingdom, some of those rulers in turn felt it necessary to employ the same law to punish and execute heretics with government forces. In such a political environment, what was Caesar’s and what was God’s had become blurred.

    We can see modern day examples of this problem in several Islamic countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. But the preaching of Muhammad was different from that of Christ. Muhammad was both prophet, general and king, and quite effective in all three roles at that. There is but one law for conservative Muslims, the law of God as interpreted by Islam. While this unity of political and religious power and law has its benefits and can be logically defended, it is dangerous to liberty. Take for example that the Quran demands that apostates and blasphemers be put to death, and the result is that under such political systems there can be no true political freedom of religion. In certain countries, if at one time a man confesses Islam, he can not renounce it or convert to another religion, without risking being put to death by the civil authorities.

    I don’t believe Christ authorized “Caesars” to wield the power of life and death over their subjects in matters of religious belief. Of course as “Ceasars” they might have the power to, but don’t believe they would have the authority. If I’m missing something or misunderstood your comment, please let me know.

    BTW, thank you for correcting “apostasizers.”

    To Yehoshua Friedman: I wouldn’t recommend quoting single lines out the Bible, especially from a parable. Consider reading the 4 Gospels–prayerfully if you can. Also reflect on what Jesus did during his ministry. If after that, you think that line from the Parable of the Pounds amounts to a commandment to kill rebels, infidels, apostates or whoever else, I will be surprised.

    To Joseph E.: What you say with regards the Spanish Inquisition is technically correct as far as I know. Self-professing Jews and Muslims were not subject to the Inquisition. However, in reality things weren’t that neat. Whether motivated by sincere conversion or fear of persecution, many Jews were baptized and thus “converted” to Christianity in late medieval Spain. For those who accepted baptism in order to remain in the land of their birth and to keep their property and livelihoods, there was no real spiritual conversion. At heart some of these people would have still been Jewish. Of course the very devout and brave would have accepted expulsion or martyrdom, but surely many saw baptism as a pragmatic solution to avoiding expulsion and other forms of persecution. Since many “conversions” were forced or coerced, the newly baptized as members of the Church could be called before the Inquisition. Many in fact were called before the Inquisition for being Judaizers (namely Christians who continued to celebrate Jewish holidays, follow Mosaic Law, etc. and who believed in the spiritual efficacy or even the need of doing so).

    Excommunication is the last tool of the Church (or any other religious community) in disciplining its members. On its own it is a spiritual punishment meant to avoid confusion among the flock and to cajole the excommunicated into abandoning his erroneous thoughts or actions. I have no problem with a religious community employing some form of excommunication to discipline its members. However, when excommunication carries with it legal consequences, then the door to oppression is once again opened.

  • Bill Bannon

    if Sandra Miesel really wrote above within Perelandra’s post. She repeats “is known” twice in the same sentence where it is superfluous…odd for a professional writer. Odd too posting within someone else’s post…..a someone else who does not engage but merely gives a reading assignment.

  • Perelandra

    I did write the above comment as Perelandra, which is the handle this site recognizes. Sorry to have committed a flaw in discourse, but do you know any other blogger who routinely gives book tiles in all caps? My book recommendations still stand. Trouble sooner the tigress in her lair than this scholar among her books!

  • Timoth

    Bill Bannon, we could write BOOKS on the tortures and evils committed by the Protestants.

    “If any one still harbors the traditional prejudice that the early Protestants were more liberal, he must be undeceived. Save for a few splendid sayings of Luther, confined to the early years when he was powerless, there is hardly anything to be found among the leading reformers in favor of freedom of conscience. As soon as they had the power to persecute they did.” – Smith, Preserved, The Social Background of the Reformation, NY: Collier Books, 1962

  • Bill Bannon

    …..understandable because most people are gone, I conclude that you were really referring to the racial issue of other commentors where modern findings would be relevant as to Spanish records.

    My issue was the entering in the decretals of certain documents in which the Catholic Encyclopedia’s author, Joseph Blotzer, since he died in 1910 had an advantage over modern authors….he lived with the extant decretals prior to 1917 when canons were revised. A modern author would have to visit Rome and hope that the collection is as it was then. Blotzer’s account totally refutes Madden’s sentence:

    “Despite popular myth, the Church did not burn heretics. It was the secular authorities that held heresy to be a capital offense.”

    Per Blotzer, starting in 1252, the Church affirmed the pre existing secular capital punishments and increased their likelihood by excommunicating if seculars did not carry out the burnings. By 1520 and Pope Leo X’s condemnation of Luther opposing burnings
    in #33 Exsurge Domine, it is obvious that a Pope and the Cardinals he consults for Exsurge Domine think it remarkable by 1520 that anyone would oppose burning heretics and Leo proceeds to condemn Luther’s lenient position as “against the Catholic Faith”…..making Madden’s statement not just incorrect via Blotzer and the 1252 change in decretals; but making Madden’s statement incorrect via Exsurge Domine 1520 which the Catholic Encyclopedia never mentions. By 1520 it is unthinkable to a Pope that Luther would say burning heretics was against the Holy Spirit.

  • Timoth

    How did Clement V deal with the social pressure from the French king to deal with the Templars?

    Torture, much like the death penalty today, wasn’t promoted, it was simply tolerated (in as much as slavery, condemned by Pope Paul III and others, was “tolerated” by St. Paul and the early Church!)

  • Bill Bannon

    Read The Church That Can and Cannot Change by John Noonan Jr./ Nortre Dame Press. Church theologians in the Universities in every century had 4 just titles for slavery unfortunately. Popes knew that and never silenced that theological opinion and were understood to except those four when they wrote against slavery. Aquinas mentions one of the four in the Supplement to the Summa T. in the section on Matrimony and then scan down to the marriage of a slave….a child born to a slave mother was a slave…..and Aquinas gives the decretals or canons involved. Another just title was if a person was captured in a just war. This one was a bad loophole and allowed Portugal to say that she only bought Africans captured in just wars within Africa. Read Noonan’s book. You will be downcast but much will become intelligible in that religious orders had slaves in the 19th century and Rome did not censure them because the 4 just titles were being taught right there in the universities despite the occasional bulls that only seemed to rule out all slavery.

  • Bill Bannon

    He recounts that in the Paul III case in 1537, the Pope had attached excommunication to enslaving and he backed down from that strictness under protests from the Spanish monarch…..and rescinded the codicil involving it.

  • Bill Bannon

    I have no interest in comparative history….none. You’ll never hear me say Protestants did not burn others. Whether Protestants sinned does not help us. Whether public school teachers molest, does not help us. If your child was molested by a priest, you would feel no relief in knowing that somewhere a Protestant minister molested a Protestant child. It’s irrelevant. If I went to confession and said I robbed a checkbook and then told the priest that a Protestant on my block also did….the priest would fail to see the relevance.

  • John Louis

    today, a friend and I had a discussion about dinosaurs and came to the conclusion that t-rexs were only angry and aggressive because their arms were too short to hug one another. I know that t-rex kill too much, but there are facts that should be analysed. Are they guilty just because they have born with large theets and short arms?

  • pacotheus

    Since when should Christians be judged by “standards of the time” and not God’s Law and the commandments of Jesus to love your neighbor? It appears that Christianity has been gradually reformed and improved by human progress and not the other way around. Religion has been a drag on and a hindrance of progress and not a spur or help.

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