I’m just wondering how the Church explains what happened during the crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. My brother-in-law is a history buff anf he doesn’t put much faith in the Church because he says that their have been many corrupt Popes (talking mainly about the Borgias, or Borjias no sure how it’s spelled exactly) and that the crusades and inquisition killed many innocent people for no reason. If anyone could explain this to me I’d appreciate it.
Try this for asimple starting point:catholic.com/thisrock/2006/0603tbt.asp
The church has never claimed that her members are perfect. popes are infallible when it comes to an official teaching on faith and morals, but they are not impeccable. Popes can sin, and have sinned, just like any other man.
The crusades were started as a offensive defense against the Muslim hordes, and it was created in the name of Christianity, which was just, as Christianity would have been undoubtedly harshly persecuted if Europe had come under Muslim control.
Again, I return to the fact that Christians can sin. The crusades were created as a good thing, and did fend off the invaders, but there were many bad side effects, such as the sack of Constantinople.
The inquisition is like the others; individual Christians can sin, they can religiously persecute people etc. And not to sound like I’m claiming that the inquisition was a good thing, but it was most definitely softer than standard courts at the time. The middle ages were pretty brutal, and secular courts were usually quite unjust. Many criminals often pretended to be heretics, just so they would be tried by the inquisition.
End result: Catholics are human, Catholics can sin. If the church were to deny this, the sacrament of confession would be pointless.
Sinners in the Church do not disprove the truth of what the Church teaches us through Divine Revelation.
We have many, many saints to inspire us with their holy lives. We should not forget them.
H.W. Crocker’s book Triumph covers the inquisition very well (and concisely). Its pretty slanted towards the Church, but when compared to other institutions at the time (Protestants, other nations/kings, etc) the inquisition did far less bad than is given credit to them. It also covers the crusades well. Some things to not on the inquisition(s): they were politically based. The Spanish inquisition was set up by the Spanish Monarchs and, officially or not, answered to them, not the Pope. It was a political institution. The Spanish inquisition was responsible for about 12 deaths per year over a 350 year period. Yes, killing is wrong, but compare this to any country, even the United States up until recently, and this is a small number.
The most important thing to know about the crusades is that the Muslims were the instigators. It was not a pillaging and taking of lands that had always been Muslim, it was a quasi-united front against a political-based religion which demands killing of those in disbelief (hmm, doesn’t this sound like the “inquisition”, yet nobody calls them out), who had massacred Christians in Jerusalem and were blaspheming God. It was not solely a Rome-based mission; European kings acted independently. In fact Western European involvement in the first crusade only came after a request from the Patriarch of Constantinople. The crusade most objected to, for good reason, is the fourth crusade, which ended in the sacking of Constantinople by Western crusaders. Constantinople never recovered, and the Turks eventually took control of the weakened city. This was not the intention of Pope Innocent III, who intended for a mission to the Holy Land. Greedy generals (and soldiers) were responsible for stopping early and sacking the city.
These two+ events are the exploits against the Church. It is a cop-out who don’t care about the truth of Jesus Christ and His Church, or even worse despise Him (I’m not implying your brother-in-law is either). Neither of these events change the fact that Jesus is God and He established a Church with St. Peter as the head. That is what I would tell your brother-in-law. Many, even the most famous Roman Catholic Saints lived during each of these times. Do the crusades and inquisition mean they’re corrupt liars too? What about the good Popes that have existed, do those events and the corruption of others mean they’re also corrupt? God gives us, even the Pope, free will. Yet He has not once abandoned His Church. Answer your borther-in-laws objections with good. Show him the good that existed in the Church during these times, especially in the Saints.
I question whether he is really a history buff. All the history buffs I’ve known are aware of work on both sides of an issue and many of them are able to recite the names of authors from memory, e.g. “For the world-is-flat issue, you gotta start with the Washington Irving bio and then go straight to Russell’s little gem”. If this guy isn’t aware of the debunking literature then he’s no buff. And five minutes on Amazon.com will dredge up plenty.
Another tack that at least silences these half-educated cranks is to ask naive questions that expose their fundamental ignorance about key issues. For example:
BIL: The crusades killed many innocent people for no reason.
Paul: ORLY? What were the Crusades?
BIL: Where the pope would guarantee you going to heaven if you go kill Muslims.
Paul: What Muslims?
BIL: In the Middle East.
Paul: What were Muslims doing in the Middle East? I thought that whole area, from Morocco to Iraq, and up through Turkey, was all Christian.
BIL: No, Muslim.
Paul: Well how did they all suddenly become Muslim?
BIL: They converted.
Paul: They converted? I thought it was early medieval Islamic expansionism under the Caliphs.
BIL: Well that too.
Paul: Did they kill many innocent Christians for no reason?