“Did the Roman Catholic Church Ever Persecute?” American Sentinel 9, 48, pp. 377, 378.

ROMAN CATHOLICS persistently deny that “the church” ever persecuted. Upon this subject Cardinal Gibbons says in “The Faith of Our Fathers“:—

I here assert the proposition…. that the Catholic Church has always been the zealous promoter of religious and civil liberty; and that whenever any encroachments on these sacred rights of men were perpetrated by professing members of the Catholic faith, these wrongs, far from being sanctioned by the church, were committed in palpable violation of her authority.

In like manner, Donahoes Magazine for September, 1894, says of the Roman Catholic Church: “She has never sanctioned or approved religious persecution of any kind.”

Abundant evidence has been published in these columns very recently to disprove this claim in behalf of Rome; but much more can be said; and that it should be said is evident from the fact that that church is now posing before the world, not as a penitent for past wrongs, but as the infallible custodian of the truth of God, and the defender of both civil and religious liberty in all ages of the Christian era.

The quotation given in this paper last week from a cardinal-indorsed Roman Catholic work, entitled, “Half Hours With the Servants of God,” shows that the Inquisition was a creation of the Roman Catholic Church. Nor was this all; according to her own confession, Rome not only “forged” that diabolical weapon, but she appointed her own agents to use it, and compelled the civil power to inflict the penalties and execute the sentences of that most dreadful of all human tribunals.

But even before the creation of the tribunal known as the Inquisition, the Roman Catholic Church persecuted. According to “A Catholic Dictionary,” [182] article, “Albigenses,” Innocent III., in 1208, “proclaimed a crusade or holy war with indulgences against the Albigensean heretics, and requested Philip II., the king of France, to put himself at its head.” The Catholic historian continues:—

The king refused, but permitted any of his vassals to join it who chose. An army was collected, composed largely of desperadoes, mercenary soldiers, and adventurers of every description, whose sole object was plunder. Raymond, in great fear, not only promised all that was demanded of him, but assumed the Cross himself against his protégés. The war opened in 1209 with the siege of Béziers and the massacre of its inhabitants. Simon de Montfort, the father of the famous Earl of Leicester, was made count of the territories conquered. The war lasted many years and became political; in its progress great atrocities were committed. Languedoc was laid desolate, and the Provencal civilization destroyed. Peace was made in 1227, and the tribunal of the Inquisition established soon after.

It will be noted that this was, according to this Roman Catholic authority, a “holy war,” proclaimed by a pope of Rome against “heretics.” Its object was the extirpation of “heresy,” though it afterwards “became political.” But the very first act in this war was the pillage of a city and the massacre of the inhabitants. And though it is asserted that it “became political,” one of its direct results was the establishment of the Inquisition. And no wonder, for that fiend incarnate, Dominic, who was the inventor of the Inquisition, was likewise instrumental in no small degree in inaugurating that so-called “holy war.”

Upon the same subject, Du Pin, a Roman Catholic author, says:—

The pope and the prelates were of opinion that it was lawful to make use of force, to see whether those who were not reclaimed out of a sense of their salvation might be so by the fear of punishments, and even of temporal death. There had been already several instances of heretics condemned to fines, to banishments, to punishments, and even in death itself; but there had never yet been any war proclaimed against [378] them, nor any them, nor any crusade preached up for the extirpation of them. Innocent III. was the first that proclaimed such a war against the Albigenses and Waldenses, and against Raymond, Count of Toulouse, their protector. War might subdue the heads, and reduce whole bodies of people; but it was not capable to altering the sentiments of particular persons, or of hindering them from teaching their doctrines secretly. Whereupon the pope thought it advisable to set up a tribunal of such persons whose business it should be to make inquiry after heretics, and to draw up informations against them; and from hence this tribunal was called The Inquisition.—Vol. Ii, p. 154.

The same work previously referred to, “A Catholic Dictionary,” article, “Dominicans,” says:—

In 1204 and 1205 the Bishop of Osma was sent into France on the affair of a contemplated marriage between King Alfonso IX. and a princess of the house of La Marche; Dominic accompanied him as his chaplain. The southern provinces of Frances were then teeming with heresies of the numerous sects which pass under the general name of Albigenses, and the peril seem imminent that large numbers of persons would before long, if no restraining influence appeared, throw off the bonds of religion, social order, and morality.

The death of the princes referred to ended the bishop’s mission, and he turned his attention to combating heresy. The pope strongly approved of the object, but refused to allow the bishop to be absent from his diocese beyond two years. The result was that Dominic was finally left alone in the work of converting “heretics.” It was thus that he was brought into contact with “heresy,” and his zeal from the “true church” and the “true faith” fired to that extent that his life was given to the extirpation of “heresy,” first, by the proscribing of what he probably supposed was truth; second, by the so-called “holy war;” and third, by torture inflicted under the forces of civil law. On this point Rev. Samuel Edgar says:—

The holy office as well as the holy see showed Dominic’s cruelty. The Inquisition, indeed, during his superintendence, had no legal tribunal; and the engines of torment were not brought to the perfection exhibited in modern days of Spanish inquisitorial glory. But Dominic, notwithstanding, could, even with this bungling machinery and without a chartered establishment, gratify his feelings of benevolence in all their refinement and delicacy. Dislocating the joints of the refractory Albigensian, as practiced in the Tolosan Inquisition, afforded the saint a classical and Christian amusement. The kind operation he perform by “suspending his victim by a cord, affixed to his arms that were brought behind his back, which, being raised by a wheel, lifted off the ground the suspected Waldensian, man or woman who refused to confess, till forced by the violence of turture.” Innocent commissioned Dominic to punish, not only by confiscation and banishment, but also with death; and, in the execution of his task, he stimulated the magistracy and populace to massacre the harmless professors of Waldensianism. “His saintship, by words and MIRACLES, convicted a hundred and eighty Albigenses, who were at one time committed to the flames.” [183]The Variations of Popery, p. 267.

It should be borne in mind that the concluding sentence of the paragraph quoted from Mr. Edgar’s work, is a literal translation from a Catholic authority; thus, again, is Rome condemned out of the mouth of her own witness.

Turning again to the “Catholic Dictionary,” previously quoted, we find this testimony:—

Hussites. The followers of the Bohemian John Huss, rector of the university of Prague, who was burnt for heresy at the Council of Constance…. Several crusades were preached against them.

Again, under “Indulgences,” the same Roman Catholic authority says:—

The period of the Crusades marks a turning point in the history of indulgences, for they were given more and more freely from that time onwards. In the first place it is to be noted that indulgences were given for wars analogous to the Crusades. For example, at the Council of Siena, in 1425, a plenary indulgence was offered to those who took arms against the Hussites; while wars against the Waldenses, Albigenses, Moors and Turks were stimulated by the same means.

Such evidence might be greatly multiplied, but enough has been given from Catholic writers and authorities, to show conclusively that the rack, the stake, the torch, and the sword, have all been employed in the interests of the Roman Catholic propaganda, and this at the instigation of Roman Catholic sovereigns, prelates and popes.

How then can Rome hope to escape the odium of the bitter persecution of the Middle Ages?—In the same manner that so-called Protestants of to-day seek to shirk responsibility for the persecution of those who differ from them in religious faith and practice; namely, by asserting that it is not religious persecution, but only the enforcement of civil law, and that the State and not the Church is responsible.

It was argued then, as it is now, that religion was essential to morality, and that morality was essential to good citizenship, and that, therefore, it was the bounden duty of the State to foster good morals by protecting the Christian faith. Note the language previously quoted from “A Catholic Dictionary,” concerning Dominic’s first acquaintance with the Albigenses:—

The southern provinces of France were then teeming with the heresies of the numerous sects which pass under the general name of Albigenses, and the peril seemed imminent that large numbers of persons would, before long, if no restraining influence appeared, throw off the bonds of religion, social order and morality.

It is the same to-day. Rev. Robert Patterson, D.D., says in defense of Sunday laws:—

It is the right of the State to protect by law such a fundamental support of government. This attack on the Sabbath is treason against the very foundations of government. As such, let it be resisted by every American citizen. The American Sabbath is essential to American liberty, to our Republic, and to God’s religion.—The American Sabbath, by the Rev. Robert Patterson, D. D.,; Presbyterian Board of Publication, Philadelphia, 1867.

In like manner, Judge Robinson, of Maryland, before whom several Seventh-day Adventists have been tried and convicted for Sunday work, said recently, in substance: “Why, if we let these people go on, all restraint will be broken down and the way will be opened for horse-racing, gambling, etc., on Sunday.”

This was only putting into slightly different phase the papal “argument” of the thirteenth century in justification of the Albigensean Crusade and the Inquisition. It is neither better nor worse now than it was then. Then the Roman Catholic faith was regarded as the bulwark of social order, and so to be protected by civil law; now the Sunday institution is declared to be essential to good government and so, to be jealously guarded by the State. In these Sunday law persecutions, history is simply repeating itself.

But the fact remains that while it was the civil power that inflicted the death penalty, the laws which authorized such things were enacted and promulgated in response to the demand of the church, just as Sunday laws and kindred measures are to-day enacted and enforced in response to the united demands of the several “Protestant” sects. Rome did persecute; first, by means of the civil power; and second, by means of her own court—the Inquisition; and in like manner the Protestant churches of to-day are persecuting, by means of the “civil” Sunday laws of the several States, and by their own secret courts of inquisition, the “law and order leagues,” “Sabbath unions,” etc. The likeness is complete. [378]

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