“Did the Roman Catholic Church Ever Persecute?” American Sentinel 9, 38, pp. 299, 300.

Donahoes Magazine for September has an article in which it is denied that Rome ever persecuted. In answer to a question, “Why does not the Catholic Church publicly disavow and condemn all sorts of religious persecution”? it is replied:—

One good reason why the church does not do this is because she has never sanctioned or approved religious persecution of any kind.

And of the Inquisition, this statement is made:—

As to the Inquisition, every well-informed reader knows that whatever punishments were inflicted upon heretics during the time of its existence, were carried out by the civil, not by the ecclesiastical authorities. “As for the Roman court,” says the Rev. James Kent Stone, a convert to Catholicity, who is now know as Father Fidells, speaking on the subject of the Inquisition, “I am not aware that the smallest proof has ever been given that its procedings [sic.] were other than mild and conservative.”

And, again the editor makes the statement that “Rome did nothing that calls for disavowal now.”

Likewise, Cardinal Gibbons, in his book, “The Faith of Our Fathers,” says: “The Catholic Church has always been the zealous promoter of civil and religious liberty.”—Page 265.

In one sense, and in one sense only, is the denial of persecution by the Roman Catholic Church true: It was the civil arm, that is, the State, that executed the penalty against heretics. But this is making a distinction without a difference, since it was the ecclesiastical authorities who instigated and insisted upon the persecution.

In 1229 the Council of Toulouse “passed forty-five articles, instructing the bishops to bind by an oath a priest in every parish, and two or more laymen, to search out and apprehend heretics and those who sheltered them. Heresy was to be punished with the loss of property, and the house in which a heretic was found was to be burned…. Every two years, males from fourteen years upwards, and females from twelve years upwards, were obliged to repeat an oath to inform against heretics. The neglect of the annual confession was a sufficient ground for suspicion, as was also the possession of the Scriptures, especially in translations. In spite of these measures and the rigorous execution of them, especially in Southern France, the desired result was not secured. The bishops were accused of apathy, and were themselves made subjects of the Inquisition by the papal chair. In 1232 and Gregory IX. appointed the Dominicans a standing commission of inquisitors in Austria, Germany, Aragon, Lombardy, and in Southern France. At the same period was organized the so-called ‘soldiery of Jesus Christ against heretics.’ … The suspicion of heresy was made a sufficient ground for apprehension; and, by a bull of Innocent IV. in 1252, resort was had, if necessary, to torture, to extract a confession.”—Schaff-Herzog, art. Inquisition.

The “Encyclopedia Britannica,” art. Inquisition, says:—

The germ of the Inquisition lies in the duty of searching out and correcting error entrusted to the deacons in the early churches. The promise in the Anglican Ordinal that the priest will be “ready with all faithful diligence to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word” is a pale reflection of this ancient charge. The episcopacy thus providing the instruments, the temporal power soon offered to enforce the sentences of the church; the edicts of Constantine and his successors now began that double system which, by ordaining that heretics should be dealt with by the secular arm, enabled the church to achieve her object without dipping her own hands in blood.

As before remarked, it is in this sense and in this sense only, that the Roman Catholic Church can, by any possibility, claim that she never persecuted. But no student of history will be deceived by such sophistry. The Inquisitors were the agents of “the church.” They were commissioned by the pope and acted for him. It was at the Council of Toulouse, in 1229, that the title of Inquisitor was first applied to the agents of the papacy. Prior to this time it was applied only to those who inquired into matters of taxation. “But the thing itself,” says the “Cyclopedia Britannica,” Art. Inquisition, “was far older than the name.” The same authority continues: “In 1184 the Synod of Verona cursed all heretics and their shelterers, ordered relapsed persons to be handed over to the secular arm for capital punishment, confiscated their property, and clearly indicated that the new Inquisition would go far beyond the older episcopal function. The synod did not hesitate to threaten easy-going bishops, urging them to more frequent and more searching visitations, standing over them as a superior power. And henceforward Inquisition becomes more systematized, with papal not episcopal authority; it was developed by those three masterful pontiffs, Innocent III. (1198-1216), Gregory IX. (1227-1241), and Innocent IV. (1243-1254), who all, regarding the supremacy of Rome as the keystone of society, claimed authority over men’s souls and bodies, above the authority of prince or bishop. Thus, soon after his accession, Innocent III. sent two Cistercians, Guy and Regnier, to visit the dioceses of Southern France and Spain, “to catch and kill the little foxes,” the Waldensians, Cathari, and Patarines, to whose tails were fastened firebands to burn up the good corn of the faithful.”

“In Italy,” says the “Britannica,” “the Inquisition was established under Dominican supervision as early as 1224. Inquisitors were at a later time brought into England to combat the Wickliffite opinions.” Of the Inquisition in Spain, the same work says: “The motive of strictly religious fanaticism influenced, not the monarchs, but the Dominican instruments of the Holy Office;” and so persuaded by the minions of the pope, Ferdinand sent to Rome to solicit the establishment of such a tribunal. Sextus IV. granted the request in 1478, and it was by this pope [300] that the infamous Torquemada, a Dominican “father,” was commissioned Inquisition-General for Castile and Leon. Rome must do more than keep the pupils of her own schools in ignorance of history if she would escape the terrible responsibility of her acts in the Dark Ages; she must blot from the pages of history the black record; but that she can never do. Nor would she do it in the sense of changing the facts if she could; for “Rome did nothing that calls for disavowal now.” She would do the same thing again if she could, and wishes now only to conceal the facts. But why do even this; for, are not “Protestants” in our own and other lands persecuting Christians to-day and making the same excuse, namely, “We are only enforcing the civil law”? Yea, verily. The papal spirit still lives, not alone in the Roman Catholic Church, but in the natural heart; and as long as it does so live, there will be religious persecution under color of “civil” statutes; and it will be excused as “only enforcing civil law.” The modern Protestant Inquisition differs from the Inquisition of the popes only in degree. The principle is the same. [304]

Share this: