“Did the Roman Catholic Church Ever Persecute?” American Sentinel 9, 42, p. 331.

IN our issue of September 27, we discussed this question at some length, quoting first a negative answer from Donahoes Magazine, and then some affirmative testimony from Schaff and Herzog and from the “Encyclopedia Britannica.” It is the purpose of this article to carry the investigation still farther, and this time we shall quote only Roman Catholic authorities.

In his book, “The Faith of our Fathers,” pages 284-286, Cardinal Gibbons says:—

But did not the Spanish Inquisition exercise enormous cruelties against heretics and Jews? I am not the apologist of the Spanish Inquisition, and I have no desire to palliate or excuse the excesses into which that tribunal may at times have fallen. From my heart I abhor and denounce every species of violence, and injustice, and persecution of which the Spanish Inquisition may have been guilty. And in raising my voice against coercion for conscience’ sake, I am expressing not only my own sentiments, but those of every Catholic priest and layman in the land.

Our Catholic ancestors, for the last three hundred years, have suffered so much for freedom and conscience, that they would rise up in judgment against us, were we to become the advocates and defenders of religious persecution. We would be a disgrace to our sires, were we to trample on the principle of liberty which they held dearer than life.

And when I denounce the cruelties of the Inquisition, I am not standing aloof from the church, but I am treading in her footprints. Bloodshed and persecution form no part of the creed of the Catholic Church. So much does she abhor the shedding of blood, that a man becomes disqualified to serve as a minister at her altars who, by act or counsel, voluntarily shed the blood of another. Before you can convict the church of intolerance, you must first bring forward some authentic act of her popes or councils sanctioning the policy of vengeance. In all my readings, I have yet to find one decree of hers advocating torture or death for conscience’ sake. She is indeed intolerant of error; but her only weapons against error are those pointed out by St. Paul to Timothy: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove entreat; rebuke with all patience and doctrine.” [119]

But you will tell me: Were not the authors of the Inquisition children of the church, and did they not exercise their enormities in her name? Granted. But I ask you: Is it just or fair to hold the church responsible for those acts of her children which she disowns? You do not denounce liberty as a mockery, because many crimes are committed in her name; neither do you hold a father accountable for the sins of his disobedient children.

These are the cardinal’s own words as recorded in his own book. Two points should be specially noted: first, he does not say that “the church” never used against heresy other weapons than those “pointed out by St. Paul to Timothy;” though that is the idea that he evidently seeks to convey; for, second, he attempts to lift the odium of the Inquisition from “the church” and place it upon the “children” of “the church;” as though to individuals and not to “the church” belonged the responsibility for the Inquisition and the crimes against humanity committed by it. But this will not do. The Inquisition was an institution of the Roman Catholic Church; and it was instituted by the visible head of that church for the express purpose of using against “error” weapons never pointed out by St. Paul to Timothy, nor to anybody else; namely, the weapons of civil pains and penalties. That this is true is not only admitted, but is asserted in a Roman Catholic book, [120] published in this city in 1891, and approved by Cardinal Gibbons himself. On pages 58, 59, of the work referred to, we read:—

For many ages after the conversion of Constantine it was easier for the church to repress heresy by invoking the secular arms than by organizing tribunals of her own for the purpose. Reference to ecclesiastical history and the codes of Justinian and Theodosius shows that the emperors generally held as decided views on the pestilent nature of heresy, and the necessity of extirpating it in the germ before it reached its hideous maturity, as the popes themselves. They were willing to repress it; they took from the church the definition of what it was; and they had old established tribunals armed with all the terrors of the law. The bishops, as a rule, had but to notify the appearance of heretics to the lay power, and the latter hastened to make inquiry, and, if necessary, to repress and punish. But in the thirteenth century a new race of temporal rulers arose to power. The Emperor Frederic II. perhaps had no Christian faith at all; John of England meditated, sooner than yield to the pope, openly to apostatise to Islam; and Philip Augustus was refractory towards the church in various ways. The church was as clear as ever upon the necessity of repressing heretics, but the weapon—secular sovereignty—which she had hitherto employed for the purpose, seemed to be breaking in her hands. The time was come when she was to forge a weapon of her own; to establish a tribunal the incorruptness and fidelity of which she could trust; which, in the task of detecting and punishing those who misled their brethren, should employ all the minor forms of penal repression, while still remitting to the secular arm the case of obstinate and incorrigible offenders. Thus arose the Inquisition. St. Dominic is said by some to have first proposed the erection of such a tribunal to Innocent III., and to have been appointed by him the first inquisitor. [121] Other writers trace the origin of the tribunal to a synod held at Toulouse by Gregory IX. in 1229, after the Albigensian crusade, which ordered that in every parish a priest and several respectable laymen should be appointed to search out heretics and bring them before the bishops. [122] The task of dealing with the culprits was difficult and invidious, and the bishops erelong made over their responsibility in the matter to the Cominican order. Gregory IX. appointed none but Dominican inquisitors; Innocent IV. nominated Franciscans also, and Clement VII. sent as inquisitor into Portugal a friar of the order of Minime. But the majority of the inquisitors employed have always been Dominicans, and the commissary of the holy office at Rome belongs ex officio to this order.

Of the powers of inquisitors, the same books says (page 60):—

The duties and powers of inquisitors are minutely laid down in the canon law, it being always assumed that the civil power will favor, or can be compelled to favor, their proceedings. Thus it is laid down, that they “have power to constrain all magistrates, even secular magistrates, to cause the statute against heretics to be observed,” and to require them to swear to do so; also that they can “compel all magistrates and judges to execute their sentences, and these must obey on pain of excommunication;” also that inquisitors in causes of heresy “can use the secular arm,” and that “all temporal rulers are bound to obey inquisitors in causes of faith.” [123] No such state of things as that here assumed now exists in any part of Europe; nowhere does the State assist the church in putting down heresy; it is therefore superfluous to describe regulations controlling jurisdiction which has lost the medium in which is could work and live.

This paragraph tells why “the church” does not now persecute, why “her only weapons are those pointed out by St. Paul;” it is because the weapon of her own which she “forged,” the Inquisition, the “tribunal the incorruptness and fidelity of which she could trust,” “has lost the medium in which it could work and live.” And that is the only reason. “Rome never changes,” and the Roman Catholic Church to whose fold Leo XIII. invites “the princes and peoples of the universe,” “the Roman Catholic Church of to-day,” upon which “Protestants,” so-called, are invoking the divine blessing, is unchanged in spirit and purpose, and would persecute to-day as she persecuted in the past if she had the power. Her denial of persecution is as disingenuous as we have in the past shown her professions of love for the Scriptures of truth and the Constitution of the United States to be.

But let not any lose faith in religion because of the unchristian course of a professed church of Christ. The Word of God foretold the great apostasy which resulted in the setting up of the papacy and warned his people, and through them the world, against it long before there was any such system claiming to be Christian; and through all the long dark night of papal supremacy God preserved to himself witnessess [sic.] for his trust, faithful men and women who counted not their lives dear unto themselves, if only they might glorify their Lord. Moreover, since the Roman Catholic Church has become hopelessly corrupt, and, as a church, irretrievably estranged from Christ, the same divine word which eighteen hundred years ago warned the world against the falling away and the “man of sin,” which was to follow it, now raises a standard against this system of iniquity and calls to the remnant people of God, not only in the Roman Catholic Church, but in her fallen and apostate daughters, saying, “Come out of her my people.” There is hope in this invitation; God has “set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people,” and this gathering will be final, for its consummation will be the coming of the Lord to take his people to himself. Let as many as are dissatisfied with Roman Catholicism, and with papacy, whether in the Roman Catholic Church or in any other, turn to the Lord and be saved by him from sin now, and from the penalty of sin at his coming. [332]

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