Church changed teaching about Witchcraft?


#1

Canon Episcopi made it a heresy to believe in witchcraft, then Malleus Maleficarum made it a heresy not to believe in witchcraft.
From catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=4005

Is this a reversal of Church teaching?


#2

Hi Dominikus;

There is no reversal of Church teaching here: the Church has always taught that witchcraft is a grave evil and a vioation of the 1st comandment.

What this article is referring to are two different but not contradictory rulings. In the first, the Canon Episcopi holds that to believe that itchcraft has any power that should be followed as something that can be helpful to us or a good thing to follow is a heresy. The later Dominican inquisitors also ruled that denying witches had any power or influence is also a heresy. These two positions do not contradict each other because the first ruling was against those who wanted to take up witchcraft and the second was against those who wanted to deny that there was any problem to be dealt with.

Thankfully today the Church is much more civilised in its dealings with witches! We don’t burn them at the stak anymore, but witchcraft and new Age heresies are still very much a threat to people’s friendship with God the Creator. You may find this article at Catholic Answers useful:

catholic.com/magazine/articles/witchcraft-101

Good luck!

Steve


#3

From Wikipedia “Malleus Maleficarum” is a book published in 1487 !!! :shrug:

Anyway, I personally do not believe in Witchcraft and I’m not afraid of witches nor demons because GOD’s Word is stronger than everything…:gopray2:


#4

Modern day witches don’t even believe in the devil, they just do magic to help others and worship all gods and goddess alongside their own horned God and mother goddess. I wouldn’t say that hurts anyone, their only moral guideline is “do anything as long as it hurts no one” not exactly evil is it?


#5

Greetings! I’d like to respond to your question. Is witchcraft evil if someone uses it for good? Well, yes. The whole point is that witchcraft is not of God but of His enemy and using the enemy’s tactics and tools to achieve any purpose taints that purpose and poisons the one who uses those tactics and tools. One cannot use the enemy and his methods without being used BY the enemy and his methods.

Did you ever read or watch the Lord of the Rings? The evil one there used magic. Gandalf, if you’ve read the Silmarillion and other works, is not a magician but is of an order of being closer to an angel. And he does not want to even touch the Ring. Nor do the others who are aware of its power to use the would-be user.

This is exactly what happens to anyone who tries to take shortcuts like witchcraft. To fall for the allure and seduction of witchcraft would be a shame. Just remember, the devil is a fallen angel of light. He is a deceiver, a liar and the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning. There is no such thing as white magic or good witchcraft. There are people who have fallen into the trap of believing in such things. All magic and all witchcraft were forbidden by God as far back as before the Old Testament was even written down. There’s a reason for that.

Wicca, by the way, (and the whole modern witchcraft movement) misrepresents itself as some sort of path of wisdom that stretches back into the mists of time. But it was pretty much dreamed up on a weekend by Crowley and one of his friends, Gerald Gardner. Please don’t fall for the hype or for the lies. Those two were disreputable if ever anybody was.

I’ll keep you in my prayers. Peace be with you! :slight_smile:

Catholic Heart and Mind: catholicview.wordpress.com


#6

“We” as a Church never burnt them at the stake. On the contrary, the Church, through her Inquisitions, saved many thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people who were accused of witchcraft and who would have otherwise been burnt at the stake by State authorities or local mobs or local petty rulers. The vast majority of these people had never had anything to do with witchcraft, but were victims of the “witchcraft crazze” which swept Europe in the 16th to 18th centuries. Their counterparts in Protestant countries were less fortunate and many thousands of alleged witches (mostly innocent) were executed there. England’s most recent conviction under the Witchcraft Act was in the 1940s.


#7

As I recall, also, the Malleus Maleficarum was rejected by the Church, was it not? It was embraced by the secular courts, however, not by the Inquisition. This is another one of those myths about the Church that gets passed on from one person. Sad.


#8

A reversal of thinking did in fact occur – based on the dichotomy of whether one thought the witch was delusional vs. if one actually believed the witch actually trafficked with the “Aerial realm of spirits” if i may borrow a phrase from our Orthodox brethren.

The often-cited examples of this would be Charlemagne’s enaction of the death penalty against those who would attempt to burn witches, on the very notion that burning witches at the stake was a pagan and superstitious practice.

He was following a long line of thought that stretches to St. Boniface and all the way back to the Early Fathers of the Church - namely that the resurrection fo Jesus of Nazareth broke the power of Hell in such affairs ~ ex. the Silence of the Pythian Oracle and the Sibyls of the ancient world is attributed to just that.

What was left were merely superstitions (defined in that Roman usage of the word). To believe in such things was simply a mark of being an infidel or a heretic - but the actual performance of such acts would do absolutely nothing.

In fact, even when we get to the point in time where the Church is taking part in discerning commitment of wrongdoing in such matters - she mostly limited herself to matters where Witchcraft could be directly associated with Heresy.

ie: The Medieval to early Renaissance Church was much more concerned about Heresy as accounted by the number of schismatic sects that died during this time period.

Witchcraft was largely left up the civil authorities.


#9

Great explanation. Thanks!


#10

OR we could try to stick to examples from real life. So, is Wicca and similar pagan, witchcrafty movements evil even if the practitioner is trying to do good? Well, I’d have to say yes as well. First of all, one has to realize that there can only be one Truth. If we believe in God, then we can’t go around worshiping spirits, goddesses, and fairies at the same time. To do such is a blatant violation of the first commandment. To my way of thinking, that alone constitutes it as evil. The practitioner himself might not be evil, but simply misguided and making a well-meaning mistake, but I can’t see getting around the fact that the movement itself is by its nature, pulling people away from God.

In addition, there is the question of whether or not the “spells” associated with such a pracctice have any real power. Assuming that we believe in one God, who is the author of life, we can only come to two conclusions. Wicca spells are nonsense and have no power other than to divert the user away from the one true God, or, Wicca spells do in fact have power that that power comes from the evil one. There is evidence both ways and it is certainly possible that some Wicca practitioners may escape from their practices unharmed while others may end up suffering demonic harrassment. For one who operates under the assumption that the God of Abraham is the true God, practicers of witchcraft are going to have to fall under the category of “silly goose” or “instrument of evil”. There is no way around that.


#11

[quote="Petergee, post:6, topic:289169"]
"We" as a Church never burnt them at the stake. On the contrary, the Church, through her Inquisitions, saved many thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people who were accused of witchcraft and who would have otherwise been burnt at the stake by State authorities or local mobs or local petty rulers. The vast majority of these people had never had anything to do with witchcraft, but were victims of the "witchcraft crazze" which swept Europe in the 16th to 18th centuries. Their counterparts in Protestant countries were less fortunate and many thousands of alleged witches (mostly innocent) were executed there. England's most recent conviction under the Witchcraft Act was in the 1940s.

[/quote]

The church didn't personally kill witches, what it did was point the fingers and then hand the innocent women over to the authorities who then killed them and in 1940 a woman was accused of witchcraft by a neighbour not by the police they didn't know what was happening, the last TRIAL for witchcraft happened in 1727 in Scotland and in England it was 1712 but no one took It seriously and she went free.


#12

[quote="Lord_Simpson, post:11, topic:289169"]
The church didn't personally kill witches, what it did was point the fingers and then hand the innocent women over to the authorities who then killed them and in 1940 a woman was accused of witchcraft by a neighbour not by the police they didn't know what was happening, the last TRIAL for witchcraft happened in 1727 in Scotland and in England it was 1712 but no one took It seriously and she went free.

[/quote]

Since you use those particular examples of things that took place at particular places and times in history, you do realize, don't you, that what you are calling "the church" was in fact not the Catholic Church at all, right? I believe that the Catholic Church was outlawed during that time in those places. I believe that Catholics were driven underground and were in danger of being hanged or otherwise tortured and killed*. So members of the Catholic Church were in as much danger as (or even more danger than) witches during that time and in that place. Something you neglected to mention.

*Although probably most of the atrocious violence was behind them, or at least the legal drawing and quartering for being Catholic, and tolerance of a sort was established, if not equality, Catholics were still victims of discrimination. And they certainly were not in charge of the witchcraft trials in England and could not have been after the time of Henry VIII.


#13

Heh. Yep, real life examples will work too. Sometimes I like to use a story to illustrate a point and reveal a truth.

Or they could fall under the category of “silly goose of the evil instrument”. :wink:

What is certain is that Christianity strictly forbids the faithful from dabbling in magic and witchcraft and one needs to decide which master one will serve. One is allowed to choose one and only one master. Make sure it isn’t mammon or a magician. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. :slight_smile:


#14

You’ve swallowed a myth I’m afraid. If you honestly believe that this is generally true, then please provide evidence (not just accusations).

and in 1940 a woman was accused of witchcraft by a neighbour not by the police they didn’t know what was happening, the last TRIAL for witchcraft happened in 1727 in Scotland and in England it was 1712 but no one took It seriously and she went free.

Quite false again I’m afraid.

In 1944 in England, Helen Duncan was arrested during a seance and charged, indicted, tried, convicted and gaoled under the Witchcraft Act. She spent nine months in prison. It seems quite a few people took it very seriously indeed.

Another supposed witch, Jane Rebecca Yorke was also convicted under the Act in 1944. The last threatened use of the Act against an individual by the British legal authorities was in 1950.


#15

Dominikus,

Yes, the Roman Catholic Church and for that matter the Jews that proceeded them, have alwase taught that intentional contact with any powers outside their god is a grave and mortal sin. The Idea is that it shows a lack of faith twords god because you are not trusting in his power or his plan.

As for persicution of witches, burning at the stake and jailing has been out of style for 300+ years (although many still face social and economic persecution in a more passive manner). Most modern Wiccans will rant about the horrors inflicted apon millions of whiches durring the middle ages. I personally don’t subscribe to that theorie. Yes whiches were burned and on occasion church officials took part, but the same happened to gays, Jews, Muslims, and other pagans, and the numbers were more likely about 100,000 across the entire middle ages. The persicution of pagans after the Christianization of the roman empire was much worse than the “Burning Times”.

Modern witchcraft takes mainly 3 braches:

1.Satanism. Satanists worship the judeo-Christian devil. Basicly this needs no discription. Even other magic users will tell you they are not people to hang around with.

2.Occultists. A very broad category which could probably include the other two. Basicly it covers magic users who do not fall in either of the other groups. They generally see magic as just another tool in every day life and use it without discretion.

3.Neo-Pagan/Wiccan. Neo-Pagan faiths are generally recreations of old religions ie. Asatru recreates German-Norse paganism. These religions tend to be a little less magically inclined and just stick to divination in most cases.

Wicca however is very magically involved. Modern Wicca was organized in the mid 1900s by a British man named Gerald Gardner. He basicly combined occult information from several sources including Crowly (for his theorie of magical mechanics) and old magical texts. Although allot of Wiccans claim the lineage of witches from the middle ages and before, I again don’t subscribe to this. Yes Gardner used ancient ideas from the middle ages, but he drew from many other sources as well. This is REALY just an attempt to shut up people who say “your religion was created in the 50s”

Wiccans are the fastest growing religion in the US by many accounts and are definitely the most common magic users. They are not Satanists as alot of people say. They beleave that because the ultimate reality, the “is all”, is transendant that magical energy is part of him and that all the gods, spirits, and entity’s are part of it. Were as Christians see all good things as of god and everything else as evil, wiccans see the Is All in everything; harmfully, helpful, or disconserned.

I don’t know why you posted this but if you are interested in the occult I am going to caution you, learn before you try things! The people who give Wicca a bad name and who get in trouble are people who rush in to it! They read on book and then proclaim themselves “High Priest/es Dragonsbain of the Magical Order of Mega-Powerful Worlocks” And think that all entity’s are nice and good and friendly and think they are masters off all maner of magical combat and can beet any nasty thing they come across. This is dangerouse thinking. Spirits and entity’s run the full gauntlet of personalitys just like people. Learn about the occult before ever becoming involved. Even if you are a Christian just looking to protect yourself. I’ve met nasty stuff out there. Heil og sæl!


#16

[quote=Hunter24;9448249 **
As for persicution of witches, burning at the stake and jailing has been out of style for 300+ years (although ** many still face social and economic persecution** in a more passive manner). Most modern Wiccans will rant about the horrors inflicted apon millions of whiches durring the middle ages. I personally don’t subscribe to that theorie. Yes whiches were burned and on occasion church officials took part, but the same happened to gays, Jews, Muslims, and other pagans, and** the numbers were more likely about 100,000 **]across the entire middle ages.
[/quote]

The persicution of pagans after the Christianization of the roman empire was much worse than the “Burning Times”.

By posting the utter nonsesne statements I have bolded here, you lose any credit for intelligence which you have gained by your (very mild) rejection of the utterly fantastic claim that millions of witches were burned.

There is no historical or other evidence to support your claims; in fact the evidence positively disproves them.

Burning of witches was a hangover from pagan times which experienced a revival in Western and Northern Europe in the 16th-18th centuries as a result of the anarchy brought on by the protestant revolt.

It was almost unknown in Christendom during the Middle Ages (whiuch finished about 1450 AD).

Neither the Church nor any civil authority in any Catholic-majority country ever burned (or executed in any other manner) gays, Jews, Muslims or pagans just for being gays, Jews, Muslims or pagans.

And Jews are definitely not pagans. Moslems are generally also not considered to be pagans.

The idea that there is a special class of people called “gays” was invented only 100 years ago inj Germany, and did not become popular anywhere until about 40 years ago.


#17

This is Totaly incorrect. Witches and homosexuals were burned or otherwise killed for centuries by Christians and Jews. And the Spanish inquisition as well as many city’s durring the Crusaids killed Jews for refusal to accept Jesus, not to mention the campaign of reprisals the roman empire took after it officially became Christian. your the one who is ruining your credibility.

Also i was not sayin Jews and muslims r pagan, the Christian definition of pagan is one not following the god of Abraham, I simply put pagans after Jews and Muslim and you misinterprited the meaning.

And your statement about gays is flat out laughable. Homosexuals have existed alot longer than 100 years I’m afraid. They have been around quite a long time.


#18

First of all, the *Malleus *does appear to contradict earlier disciplinary rulings such as Canon Episcopi. The earlier position wasn’t just that witchcraft shouldn’t be followed, but that it shouldn’t be feared because it was just a delusion.

This isn’t a problem for Catholic claims of infallibility, though. Whatever may or may not be the case with earlier disciplinary canons, the Malleus certainly was never officially sanctioned by the Church as a whole. It was the work of a couple of Dominicans who were actually rather unpopular and got into trouble several times with their superiors for their unhinged approach to witchcraft.

At the same time, their opinion on the reality of witchcraft was fairly commonly held. If I remember rightly, Sylvester Prierias (a very prominent Dominican theologian who served as Master of the Sacred Palace at the time of the 95 Theses) held to this view, for instance. It wasn’t official dogma at any time that I’m aware of, but it was a common theological opinion that contradicted earlier common theological opinion–the earlier opinion being official enough that you could incur canonical penalties for disagreeing with it.

So there certainly was a change, of the sort that there has been many times in Catholic history. Not enough to challenge basic Catholic claims about infallibility, but enough to show that the continuity of Catholic teaching is a bit more complex than some Catholics are willing to admit:p

It is not true that this change in opinion was prompted by the Reformation. It took place in the late Middle Ages, decidedly before the Reformation. The biggest wave of witch killings did take place after the Reformation, and mostly in areas affected by the Reformation, though (in contrast to the claims sometimes made on this forum) it was not carried out exclusively or even predominantly by Protestants (Protestants and Catholics, in the affected areas, seem to have been equivalently enthusiastic as far as I can tell).

And yes, Catholic church officials did on occasion hand over witches to be burned, just as they did with heretics. However, secular authorities took more and more control over the process, and this corresponded with an increasing rate of death sentences. In the areas where centralized “Inquisitions” were in place (Spain, Portugal, and Rome), and thus where the Church retained more control over the prosecution of witchcraft, the death count was much lower. So it’s not true that the Church played no role, but it certainly didn’t play the primary role and was relatively much more rational and lenient in its approach than civil authorities were. (My immediate source for this summary is Brian P. Levack, “The Great Witch-Hunt,” in Handbook of European History, 1400-1600, vol. 2, pp. 607-40, esp. 614-15. I’ve read other scholarly treatments of the subject in the past, which agree with this summary, but this is the text I have in front of me at the moment.)

Edwin


#19

[quote="Hunter24, post:17, topic:289169"]
This is Totaly incorrect.

[/quote]

I could say "go and read a real history book instead of bklindly swallowing outrageous myths" but because I'm in a kind and patient mood I'll give you some help.

Witches and homosexuals were burned or otherwise killed for centuries by Christians and Jews.

I never said they weren't.

And the Spanish inquisition as well as many city's durring the Crusaids killed Jews for refusal to accept Jesus

Absolute nonsense and totally impossible. By definition the Spanish and every other church Inquisition could only investigate the beliefs and practices of baptised Christians. Jews and other non-Christians were totally ignored by and immune from all actions of the Inquisitions. And of course the Inquisitions never killed anybody, but in fact as I said saved many innocent people (and even many probably guilty people) from being killed by civil authorities. The Inquisitions were the most liberal and humane court system that the world had ever seen up until that time. It was the inquisitions which introduced many of the advances in court procedure which we take for granted today and whic h have been adiopted in virtually all miodern court systems to make things fairer for the accused person. They even had some extra features whuich have not been generally adopted, for example the accused person was first invited to write a list of as many names as he wanted to, of people whom he regarded as his enemies or who he thought had some reason to be biased against him. Thenceforth tall these people were banned from giving any evidence against him and any accusation made by any of them was automatically dismissed!

not to mention the campaign of reprisals the roman empire took after it officially became Christian. your the one who is ruining your credibility.

Really, you should do stand-up comedy. Please provide a link to any paper by any actual historian about this supposed "campaign of reprisals".

Also i was not sayin Jews and muslims r pagan, the Christian definition of pagan is one not following the god of Abraham, I simply put pagans after Jews and Muslim and you misinterprited the meaning.

No, I took the meaning that you wrote, "Jews, Moslems and other pagans". Don't blame me for your inability to express what you mean.

And your statement about gays is flat out laughable. Homosexuals have existed alot longer than 100 years I'm afraid. They have been around quite a long time.

Sodomy has been around for millennia. The idea that there is a distinct group of people called "Gays" or "homosexuals" has been around as I said only about 100 years, and it was only much later that most people heard of this idea, and even later that a significant number of people embraced the idea. This is documented historical fact as are all of teh other historical facts I referred to above.


#20

[quote=Contarini;9456371 ] The biggest wave of witch killings did take place after the Reformation, and mostly in areas affected by the Reformation, though (in contrast to the claims sometimes made on this forum) it was not carried out exclusively or even predominantly by Protestants (Protestants and Catholics, in the affected areas, seem to have been equivalently enthusiastic as far as I can tell).

[/quote]

Most likely most of the Catholics’ enthusiasm was largely motivated by a desire to avoid the accusation by their protestant rulers that Catholics were overly tolerant of “witches”.


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