Pax tecvm, gang.
I am wondering whether it is possible to reconcile Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae: On the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Matters Religious with the theological presuppositions behind the medieval Inquisitions.
Please note that I am not looking to defend the Inquisition against commonly held myths. Yes, these courts were far more lenient and just than their secular counterparts. And yes, it can be argued that the Inquisitions saved more lives than it destroyed, by exonerating those who would otherwise have been killed by the mob or theologically inept secular tribunals.
Still, the doctrine of the medieval Church, as articulated by Saint Thomas Aquinas, held that a man could be executed by the State if was an unrepentant heretic. Not only if he were actively promulgating his beliefs, not only if he were a violent iconoclast, not only if he was actively trying to steal Catholics away from their religion. The more holding of his belief was enought so subject him to death.
(And while it is true that Saint Thomas was by no means infallible, anyone who knows the rudiments of medieval Catholic thoughts on this issue knows that he was just articulating the universal viewpoint of this Church in his day.)
I just do not see how we can reconcile what was once arguably the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium (i.e. that heretics may be burned by the state for the holding of a heresy) with the infallible teaching of the 21st Ecumenical Council.
What’s to stop the Church from changing her teaching once more, if we should ever see the existence of Catholic States?