Is the Inquisition a black mark on the Catholic Church?

Thanks for your answers.

No, I don’t think it is. What people falsely believe it to be is what is the bad mark on the Church. A lot that is believed of it today is not anything like what it really was like. Barely anybody was killed in it and most denounced their heresy and were pardoned or were simply innocent. Their method of trying people was actually more just than the civil courts at that time. There may have been some abuses of it, but they were in the minority. Here is a video that has a lot of information on the matter. The Inquisition

Another charge leveled against Spain to buttress The Black Legend was the “Inquisition” and the burning of hundreds of thousands of Protestant heretics, assertions that have no basis in historical fact. The Inquisition was real in Spain; as real as it was in England and France.

One death is too many. Also heresy is never a good reason to hurt, imprison, torture, or kill someone.

Their method of trying people was actually more just than the civil courts at that time. There may have been some abuses of it, but they were in the minority.

It’s not ok or good just because it was less cruel and sadistic than what other groups did. That’s moral relativism, which the Church is supposed to be against.

Here is a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas concerning the killing of heretics and why it was done.

With regard to heretics there are two points to be observed, one on their side, the other on the side of the Church. As for heretics their sin deserves banishment, not only from the Church by excommunication, but also from this world by death. To corrupt the faith, whereby the soul lives, is much graver than to counterfeit money, which supports temporal life. Since forgers and other malefactors are summarily condemned to death by the civil authorities, with much more reason may heretics as soon as they are convicted of heresy be not only excommunicated, but also justly be put to death.

But on the side of the Church is mercy which seeks the conversion of the wanderer, and She condemns him not at once, but after the first and second admonition, as the Apostle directs. Afterwards, however, if he is still stubborn, the Church takes care of the salvation of others by separating him from the Church through excommunication, and delivers him to the secular court to be removed from this world by death. The Decretum repeats Jerome’s comment, Cut off the decayed flesh, expel the mangy sheep from the fold, lest the whole house . . . the whole body, the whole flock burn, perish, rot, die. Arius was but a single spark in Alexandria, but as it was not at once put out, the whole world was laid waste by his flame .

An inquisition was necessary at times because the laity were already burning people alive for heresy. There would be a lot of chaos unless a formal and institutionalized court was established. Is the Inquisition a perfect system that had no evil people leading it? No. Just like our American courts are not perfect since both are run by sinners who can do evil and they are humans that can make mistakes.


Also, it is more appropriate to refer to the inquisitions in the plural.

God Bless

I would disagree. Generally, I am opposed to burning people at the stake or chopping their heads off because they disagree with me on some theological point.

1 Like

Look at it from a Catholic perspective. If a Catholic denies a teaching of the Church, he commits a mortal sin of heresy and goes to hell. The Church, in this case, would not kill the person since they wouldn’t even know they were a heretic. But then there are people who become arch-heretics that preach their heresy and kill other souls along with their own. It is much worse than murdering them, which also gets the death penalty, since you are endangering people’s salvation by making them commit mortal sin, which is death of the soul. The Church can’t bear to see her children being damned to hell by a bad member, so she tries to convert him as best as she can. When this proves futile, she is left with no other choice but to hand him to the civil authorities to be executed if she wants to ensure no more of her children will be damned by him. It is much like the death penalty which can be utilized to give an example or to protect society, both of which is intended to save people’s lives.

The Inquisitions and the secular powers that threw fuel into the fire (no pun intended) was a black mark on Christianity in general. It was driven by intolerance and fear and hate. I think the shock to our modern sensibilities can be mitigated by historical context but it’s still pretty bad.

There are things in every institutions history that they aren’t proud of. The inquisition is not something to celebrate. And certainly I know of no one who would want to go back and live in those times. I certainly wouldn’t. But I always cringe when the RC gets bashed because of the inquisition or any sin of the past.

And this kind of thing still happens today.


PS. Not by Christians that ive heard so far.

Aren’t there quite a few Roman Catholics who believe the heresy that artificial birth control is acceptable under certain conditions, for example, if a married couple has already had six or seven children and the wife is too frail to have any more and the family is under a financial strain already? What do you do with those heretics who refuse to see artificial birth control as wrong under these dire conditions faced by some married couples who are facing financial bankruptcy if they have more children than the seven that they already have? I would be opposed to burning them at the stake or to chopping off their heads.

Yes, there are many Catholics that believe in heresy today; however, they are not arch-heretics (most of them) and there are no civil authorities available that would execute them anyway. I don’t think that the killing of each arch-heretic is the Church’s normal course of action. There have always been arch-heretics but only some inquisitions. They have only appeared when the Church has deemed it necessary.

As a side note, the Church says that family should practice natural family planning if they cannot have anymore children. Contraception isn’t the only option. Of course, there is abstinence as well which is what should happen, but if it isn’t possible to abstain then natural family planning should be done.

So only arch-heretics should be burned at the stake and not heretics according to Thomas Aquinas? How do you define an arch-heretic?
BTW, do Catholics think it is OK if a Muslim chops off the head of someone they believe to be an arch-heretic according to Islam?

If I am understanding St. Thomas Aquinas correctly, yes, since only arch-heretics kill other people’s souls. Here is a quote from my Catechism that distinguishes the difference between heretics and arch-heretics.

1. Heretics are those who reject some one or more of the truths revealed by God: Heretics are those who hold to some of the doctrines revealed by God, and reject others. Those who induce others to a false belief are called leaders of heresy, or arch-heretics… Heresy is one of the greatest of all sins, when it is not the result of invincible ignorance.

No, the Mohammedans are not correct in their practice because those people are not true heretics. A true heretic is a Catholic that denies a Catholic teaching. If someone denies one of the false teachings of Mohammedanism, that is a good thing according to the Church.

Unfortunately, mutatis mutandis, that is how Muslims view Roman Catholic teaching on the issue,

Yes, but only one is the true Faith. :wink:

That is what the Muslims believe also.

That is true. I know from my studies that the Catholic Church is right. I know Mohammedans say that as well, but the Catholic Church is the only religion that can truly prove itself. A biased statement, but I know that it can because it has for me.

Does the true faith say that in order to be a disciple of Jesus you must hate your father and your mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit