Burning heretics

Would it still be reasonable or acceptable for the church to burn heretics at the stake? What has changed?

The Church did not burn heretics

Heresy is no longer a capital crime in most countries, that is what has changed.

As articulated, this is one of those “How long have you been beating your wife” questions.

A) The “Church” itself never burned heretics.

The burning of heretics was largely a civil punishment that was conducted by the authorities of whatever government was in power at that particular place. The Church authorities might be tasked with investigating if someone was, indeed, a heretic, but as in the Inquisition they were more interested in finding out who WAS NOT guilty than who was. This was to help protect those who were accused from false, but serious charges.

In many times and places Church law dovetailed with civil law. The reason people were burned for the civil crime of heresy was that many heresies had the effect of causing civil unrest and instability in the society. It is the responsibility of civil authorites to keep order. People were executed for many things we might find strange as recent as 100 years ago even here in Arizona, USA, like horse-stealing. With 20/20 hindsight we may not like their tactics, but it was their society and they were the ones that had to deal with it, not us.

B) Heretics are not burned these days because there is no civil capital law against it (in the West, anyway) and, even it there were, our means of execution have changed.

This does not explain how Pius V, as ruler of Rome both ecclesiastically & temporally, had a free hand in burning them. He was a lot of things - but he was not a layman when he did so, nor was he subject to any lay authority. The Roman Inquisition had been revived in 1542, 24 years before his election - any who tries to saddle any but Church authorities with the responsibility is going to have their work cut out.

Gregory IX (who introduced this practice) acted with equal freedom from constraint; he did not have to follow the example of his enemy Frederick II (who revived this penalty a few years earlier, in (IIRC) 1224),but he did do so. In 1120, a Council at Jerusalem decreed the same punishment; though not for heresy.

It is not enough to deny the involvement & responsibility of the Church - at very best, such a denial accounts for only some facts, but not for all. Unqualified denials merely succeed in making Catholics seem to be ignorant or deceitful :frowning: Surely that does no one any good.

Besides, attempting to shift the responsibility implies (among other implications) that burning people is something morally awkward; we may think so, and the first thousand years of Christians did so: Chrysostom, Lactantius, & Nicholas I all denounce the very idea of inflicting death upon the baptised in order to curb error. Later, this changed. Paul IV & Pius V were zealous for the Roman Inquisition, & their support extended to the use of torture & to the burning of heretics: they at least saw no contradiction between the moral requirements of the Christian faith, & the doing of such things; even though centuries of their predecessors would have disagreed; & even though the Church does so today.

In many times and places Church law dovetailed with civil law. The reason people were burned for the civil crime of heresy

This is theologically mistaken - heresy is essentially a sin against faith,even though it may in actuality have civil effects. That does not make it a properly civil offence; that it might have, & often did have, such effects, is incidental to its proper character.

was that many heresies had the effect of causing civil unrest and instability in the society. It is the responsibility of civil authorites to keep order. People were executed for many things we might find strange as recent as 100 years ago even here in Arizona, USA, like horse-stealing. With 20/20 hindsight we may not like their tactics, but it was their society and they were the ones that had to deal with it, not us.

That does not make it Christian though - what earthly states do is no standard for the Christian Church.

B) Heretics are not burned these days because there is no civil capital law against it (in the West, anyway) and, even it there were, our means of execution have changed.

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“Still”? When was it ever proper to burn a heretic? Talk about a loaded question.

“Have you stopped beating your wife?”

I’d hate to envoke the bad pope label,

but I read on a wikipedia article somewhere that one of the “not to holy” so to speak popes, complained that when he had his opponents excuted, they didn’t scream loud enough. I think this was during one of the schisms…12th centurary I think.

Exception, not the NECESSARY RULE, so I’m not even sure why I’m typing this…

This begs the question: Why would any want to burn another person at the stake? :confused:

Scout :tiphat:

What I find really strange about the accusation of being complicit in the burning of heretics that it is always the Roman catholic Church that is accused. Any one knowing the history of the reformation knows that it was not just the Catholic Church that was involved in burning, drowning, hanging, drawing and quartering, pressing under stones, and so on. Any faith community, whether Catholic or not seemed to have its favorite ways of dealing with dissenters.

For a little bit of background, the New Agey faiths like Wicca like to talk of the “Burning Times” when the evil, blood thirsty Catholics burned the gentle, peace loving Pagans. :rolleyes:

In terms of historical accuracy the story is full of ****, but alot of people still buy it. This might be where some of the talk of burning heretics comes up. My personal thought on the subject is that man is human and capable of sin, whether the man is a peasent or a Pope. There’s bad people out there of every ilk and unfortunetly the bad people in a group seem to usually be the loudest and the ones that grab the headlines the best.

I have read that priests went to heretics, or the accused and asked them if the body of Christ they were holding was really the body of Christ. If they said yes, they would be let go but if they said it was only symbolic, they would be burnt. Is this true? Where would something like this originate, there must be some speck of truth in it.

Protestants did the SAME THINGS to Roman Catholics when they got the chance.

No it’s not true. Where are you getting these things?

Wikipedia is NOT a serious source of information about Catholicism. It is full of errors. Please find something a little more reliable. And, before posting allegations such as the one above, please be able to provide some sort of documentation.

Your accusation is quite outlandish. And, all you have is “I think I read… I think it was…” That is not productive.

No. Heretics should be slow-roasted on the grill to avoid burning. :rolleyes:

Seriously, though, what prompts a question like that?

I would also want to know the answer to this. It should would not go over well today. :eek:

I have a related question. The Lutherans used to burn Anabaptists and other heretics at the stake. Is there any reason they should not be allowed to do so now. Elizabeth I had Catholic priests and those who aided and sheltered them hanged, drawn and quartered (that is butchered while still alive), and beheaded. Is there anything that would prevent Elizabeth II from treating dissenters from the Cof E in the same way today?

Probably the law.

This reminds me of the old Black Adder series when the fanatical Puritan Aunt says
"Cold? “Cold is God’s way of telling us to burn more Catholics!” :wink:

I annoys me sometimes that the inquisition and the crusades are often held up as arguments against Catholicism.

But then I realize that if that is the best they have, isolated incidents that happened centuries ago, it is a pretty weak argument. :shrug:

I too ran into alot of this sort of information in my earlier exploring of the Church, and it was really difficult to get past because my issue was… how could this be, when the Church claims to be the true Church est. by Christ!?! After some further reading and prayer it was apparent that we are all human and capable of sin, including popes. Jesus knew that his Church would have these sorts in his Church, but assured us that he would protect his Church too. Just look at Judas and what he did…and he was hand picked by Christ in person. RenaissanceMare, I agree with you :slight_smile: just my :twocents:

I think I saw that in a Chick tract once. I doubt it’s true.

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