Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Inquisition: Historical Context is Everything

Often a discussion with a non-Catholic about the Church comes to a grinding halt when the non-Catholic brings up the evil carried out by the Catholic Church during the Inquisition (there were actually several inquisitions, some of which were instigated by civil, not Church authority, but I digress)

To fully understand the Inquisition and the Church's role in meting out punishment for heresy, one must understand the events in their historical context. It is truly unfair to judge the Catholic Church for its actions during the inquisitions without first looking at the contemporary history in which they occurred.

"Do remember that we are not dealing here with modern day Western nations where there was a clear separation between church and state. Religion was inseparable from politics. Church and state were mingled and both rulers and the common man felt that a common religion was absolutely critical to the maintenance of order. In the sixteenth century heresy was a common charge and heresy of the magnitude expressed by many heretics was almost always punishable by death. It may be helpful to draw people’s attention to the Old Testament where God not only approved of, but commanded, the destruction of entire nations. Surely this would seem atrocious to modern readers, and surely God would no longer command it today, yet at the time it happened it was common practice. The times change. We see evidence of this as well in the New and Old Testaments where believers owned slaves, another practice we would consider abominable and unfitting for Christians.

Paul Henry, a notable historian, writes: The Church's conduct was not determined by personal feeling; it was the consequence of a struggle which these heretics had carried on for years against tendencies to a corruption of doctrine which threatened the Church with ruin. Every age must be judged according to its prevailing laws; and the Catholic Church cannot be fairly accused of any greater offense than that with which we may be charged for punishing certain crimes with death.” The Catholic Church was right to take action. The horrid inevitability was that in this time and place heresy was a civil offense and one punishable by death."

I believe this is a fairer way to see the role of the Catholic Church in the Inquisition. Wouldn't you agree?

Even more interesting is that the above comments were actually by a blogger who was attempting to justify Calvin's behavior for having his old friend Dr. Servetus executed on his arrival to Geneva. I just took out Calvin's name and inserted Catholic Church and replaced Servetus with the word these heretics or many heretics in the above essay. We see that, indeed, historical context is a useful tool to better understand the events of the past that are often used to paint the Church in a negative light.


Blogger Deborah said...

Interesting...Consider this quote as well from a very informative article by Thomas Madden in National Review Online.

"The Catholic Church's response to this problem (meaning the unfair trials of heretics by civil authorities) was the Inquisition, first instituted by Pope Lucius III in 1184. It was born out of a need to provide fair trials for accused heretics using laws of evidence and presided over by knowledgeable judges. From the perspective of secular authorities, heretics were traitors to God and the king and therefore deserved death. From the perspective of the Church, however, heretics were lost sheep who had strayed from the flock. As shepherds, the pope and bishops had a duty to bring them 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."

August 24, 2009 8:03 AM  
Blogger George Weis said...

Well done! Nice way of making things absolutely clear :D Yes, what I actually think is sad is that politics and religion mixed. When the Roman Empire Collapsed the Bishops who enjoyed positions of respect and authority held up civilization with their own shoulders. So, it wasn't intentional, but it happened. Then after some time what is mentioned in this post became true. Heresy was the same thing as national treason, and was dealt with in that manor. Especially after the crusades (although another black mark on Christian History) which did accomplish a higher level of European unity... which was the idea behind it.

So, at any rate... well done!

August 24, 2009 11:08 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks guys!
you dont hear the truth portrayed like this too often!!

August 25, 2009 10:38 PM  

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