Persecution of non-Catholics


I am Southern Baptist and I couple of months ago became interested in learning more about the Catholic Church and started reading any and everything i could get my hands on about her. I find myself being drawn more to the Church and am considering converting. In my journey I have encountered a few stumbling blocks, but have been able to move forward, due to much research and prayer! However I recently have hit a very LARGE stumbling block, and have not been given a way to get through it. THE REFORMATION. The things that I have read, from credible sources, about the horrible mistreatment, torture and murder of non-Catholic Christians, as well as non-belivers, by Church leaders. I know Church leaders are human and sinners as all people are, but I have actually read and heard representatives of the church actually DEFEND, these actions and the Churches Popes and Bishops of the time. I can not accept this. I KNOW it was WRONG! How can anyone find a defense for this? There are many things that I truly love about the Catholic Church and wholeheartedly belive, If you could offer any insight on this matter, I would really appreciate it.

In Christ- kedera


I suggest, before you get all worked up about Catholic persecution of APOSTATE CATHOLICS, which is what the “Reformers” and their followers WERE,
you might also first want to read up on how bloodthirsty and violent the “Reformers” themselves were.
Luther called for the forcible prevention of Catholics from performing their worship and pilgrimages,
Zwingli had the Anabaptists drowned in Lake Zurich,
Calvin persecuted those who didn’t agree with him, and had Michael Servetus roasted alive in Geneva (not merely burnt at the stake, he had the fires set many feet away from the stake so that Servetus would “cook” on the stake - alive - for several hours).
Luther also urged the massacres of over 200,000 German peasants who had rebelled against the princes AT HIS URGING, and Luther also viciously persecuted Jews.
Your Protestant Reformers were more violent than the Catholic leaders. And what they were doing was worse too, cuz the Catholics were just defending the Faith handed down from the Apostles while the Reformers were going after people who disagreed with their NOVEL interpretations of the Bible.
The Reformers were very sanguinary spirits, and that is usually not told to Protestants in their Sunday school lessons where the Reformers are presented as godly heroes.


Horrible things were done by everyone involved. Most of the history I’ve read is slanted towards the Protestant side. It wasn’t until I read Belloc that I started to get a feel for the happenings from the Catholic prospective.



The fact is, that 400 and more years ago that was simply how Europeans thought. Heretics (whoever was defining the term) were a threat to the social order, and threats to the social order were dealt with very harshly. To get an idea how harshly, in England even as late as the beginning of the 19th century there were some 220 capital offenses, and children were often executed for e.g. stealing.

The point being, those days were not like these days. Their way of seeing the world was not our way. It takes a great deal of mental discipline to try and understand an earlier era rather than to just condemn it in a blanket judgement.

I don’t know the last time the Catholic Church took an active role in executing heretics, but I suspect it was before my great great great great great grandparents were even born. So many of the ongoing conflicts around the world are the result of people not letting go of long-past offenses. Judge the Church by what she teaches now.

BTW, how should we judge Protestantism when the only people ever executed for religious reasons in America were executed by Protestants? Do the executions in Salem condemn today’s Protestants? Do the killings and crimes committed by the KKK against Catholics in the 1920s condemm today’s Baptists?


Okay, who’s getting worked up? Did I not say that I am considering converting? There are many things I love about the Catholic Chuch and I just want to understand more. MY reformers as you call them, have nothing to do with me personally, or what I belive to be right or wrong. But when I read that Pope Pius XII “stood in the blood of the victims and didn’t say a word” and then I hear MODERN DAY Catholic Church represenatives defending him and the actions of the clergy, it’s more than a little unsettling. I’m not saying that Protestants were totally innocent in all of there actions. MY christ, I am sure wept at the carnage of the reformation. There is no excusing out-and-out murder, from ANYONE, Catholic and Protestant alike, lest we forget the rest of the persecuted, Jews, non-belivers,etc…who had NADA to do with us heretic Protestants! All I want to know is, Why will the Church aknowledge these past leaders as being good, or venerable, after they did such horrible things? It’s different for Protestants because we can only speak for ourselves, church history is just not taught to us, and there is no head of the a church to make statements on these issues on behalf of our churches. This is not meant to be an attack, just a genuine lack of understanding, and wanting to know. In my simple-country-girl heart, I know there is no justification for evil, ever.


I think you will find as you dig deeper that the vast majority of the killings (on both sides) were actually perpetrated by Secular leaders of the time, with varying degrees of support from different religious leaders.

You’ll also find that most numbers are greatly exagerated.

The “millions” you will here of usually translate into thousands over a few hundered years.



KEDERA, Chuck is correct, the numbers have been exaggerated over time, and were most often done by secular rulers, but too often in collaboration with some church leaders in the area, whether protestant or Catholic. It is a shameful past where the Family of God did battle with one another. But just because we had a big family fight at that time, it doesn’t mean we are not still family. Please don’t get too hung up on the shameful events of the 16th century.

By the way, Pope Pius XII held his office during the early to mid-1900s.

Peace Be With You!


HA, thanks Mike, for that correction. :blush: But, still, I have heard defenses, by people today, of that horrible past. I can’t understand that. I trully hate that any of it happened want to be able to move forward in my faith. Most of what i believe, is already very Catholic, but in order for me to convert, I want it to be full. I want to understand and learn as much as I can and part of that is knowing and understanding how it is that I am Protestant in the first place.



Please make a good study of history and the role of the various religious leaders during times of turmoil.

And just because a protestant [or muslim, jew, morman, etc] are not "taught’ history [or if taught only taught from one perspective] does not allow that person a free pass to judge another groups history…

Pius XII was Pope during WWII. He is credited with saving thousands of Jews and for directing and allowing the catholic clergy in saving even more. The Jewish Rabbi of Rome converted to catholicism after the war, taking Pope pius XII’s given name as his baptismal name because of the love and respect he had for him. That once Jewish Rabbi, lived through the holocaust and when the dust cleared saw a man of God, the leader of a ‘universal’ church who had done much for the Jewish people.

You would not know that now with all of the books being written that attack Pius XII for not doing more and even linking him with Hitler [like they were best buds and not 110% opposed to each other]. Read a book called Hitler, the War and the Pope. It gives a more honest look at Pope Pius XII and the times.

Did you know that in England a catholic could not hold a public position even into the 1900’s? That the celebration of Mass was a capital offense? That parish priests were drawn, quattered and beheaded for celebrating Mass?

Does this excuse real offenses performed by catholic clergy? No…but every churchdenominational and the “non-denominational” churches have amongs its members [past, present and future] those who will sin in minor and major ways…Sad isn’t it; the hold that sin has on the world. That satan is able to convince Christians that evil is good and good is evil…

Study history, at least the Church comes to acknowledge its sins. We don’t hide our skeletons. Thank God we have the magisterium guided by the Holy Spirit to bring about renewal when necessary and to safe guard the Faith; just as Jesus promised…


What exactly have you heard by way of defense? Certainly the thinking behind these things can be put forth without that being considered a defense.

And since Piux XII has come up, historians believe that the Catholic Church, without any military power whatsoever, saved more Jews during WW2 (close to a million) than were saved by any Allied nation. That is the face of the modern Church.


Kedera, the thing to remember is that there are bad apples in every barrel. The thing that is unique about the Catholic Church is NOT that every single member is holy and pure, but that as an institution it was granted the authority to teach the Truth, and provided the sacraments to help “cure” its members.

Those who were killing (on either side) were not following the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Not all “Catholics” follow the teachings of the Catholic Church.


We must all remember that even though today we stress mercy and even usually oppose the death penalty for ANY crime,
we must still remember that willful heresy on the part of anyone is in the eyes of God an offense worthy not only of death, but of eternal punishment in the fires of Hell. In the 16th century and before, Church leaders regarded heretics as every bit as bad as murderers, for heresy destroys the soul, whereas murder destroys only the body. The antiCatholic revolution popularly misnamed the “Reformation” was an extremely bloody affair.
Yes, Protestants died at the hands of Catholic secular rulers.
But Protestants died also at the hands of rulers loyal to the Reformers and AT the Reformers urging, if they didn’t agree with the theology of the particular Reformer whose theology was dominant in his country or district. I do not condemn the leaders of the Church for calling for the death penalty against heretics, any more than I condemn the Apostle Peter for pronouncing the sentence of death on Ananias and Sapphira recorded in the book of ACTS. Of course, Peter didn’t strike them dead, God did, but Peter pronounced the death sentence on those two deceitful Christians.

Today we stress MERCY towards Protestant Christians because the vast majority of them were born and raised in Protestantism, and are acting in good faith, and are in no way personally responsible for the sectarianism which exists in Christendom today.

I merely meant to point out in my post the sanguinary nature of the Reformers, who are often presented to Protestants in a heroic and godly light as if they were mild-mannered gentlemen persecuted by bloodthirsty Catholic bishops over a mere difference of opinion. That was not the case.

God bless,



I hope you will read my earlier post and what I wrote about Pius XII.

It is not a defense to point out what the protestants or governments were doing. After all the Catholic Church does not and did not operate in a vacuum. The Church’s history must be viewed in context. What is the context: as noted in earlier posts, the world and society operated much different in the past. One could say that society has gotten more civilized in some respects and less civilized in others.

If a person stole a pie in colonial america, they might be sentenced to three days in the stocks [you know - head and arms locked into the wooden frame in the town square] for all to see. They were made an example as well as being punished. This was to discourage stealing bith in the theif and in the community.

In today’s america, the pie thief probably does not even get punished. If they were prosecuted, they would probably pay a fine and return home. Their immediate family might not even know, let alone the neighbors. We as a society have decided that humiliation is not productive.

Today in the middle east that same pie thief might get their hand cut off. The middle eastern society see that as an appropriate response for the criminal act.

Ergo: different societies, different periods of time all come to play in judging the actions of people. We are subject to the times in which we live and the societies within which we live. The better judge of character becomes the historical review [look] of the actions and the affect upon the society and times overall.

A single instance or a single period of a persons life is not contextual of the person’s whole life; especially after death. Any living person can have an epithany. Any living person, no matter the sinner and sin can reach out to God and receive forgiveness, reconcilliation and salvation…

If that were not so, there would be no help for you and me…we would not even have to look beyond the mirror to see the pope, the catholic church or any other church and its leader…we, you and I, would stand condemned…thank God for JEsus and His atonong Sacrifice…


That was a superb post, Yada.


this is the site that I ended up at before I posted the thread. I don’t know how I ended up there, but reading it made me feel like all that I have been reading about the past couple of months, might not be totally true and that scares me and I probably should not look online for anything important because you really don’t know what you are getting. And a couple of weeks ago on a EWTN program (by the way I L-O-V-E love that channel) there was a priest (he was blonde) talking about the Reformation and a Pope (?) of the time, and he was basically defending whoever it was, saying basically that history is inacurate and they are misunderstood, and really played down the severity of it all. I just want hear that the Catholic Church, today, feels badly about it, and that they wouldn’t try to justify, in any way the wrongdoing of the Church leaders of the past (notice I say Church Leaders, not the Church).


I agree, YADA you rock :wink: that was a very insightful, yet totally understandable to Catholicism newbie such as myself.


Thanks kedera,

I like history and biographies…and I try to read history from multiple perspectives…

You know I have this friend whose husband defended the second amendment [you know the right to bear arms]. She was discussing it with me as her perspective was that only the government - wll ordered militia - needed to have a gun.

When I siad to her that the framers of the constitution would not have thought about it that way because of the tyranny of government. The people have a right to defend themselves and might overthrow the government. I said after all “that is what the revelutionary war was all about, overthrowing the government” She replied “No, we were fighting the british” I reminded her that we were British subjects at the time…King George was our King and we were rebelling against the tyranny of our own governement.

She really knew that as an historical fact…its just that America had been America so long and Britian an ally that the reality of a long past grievance and how that might have played out in forming law and policy was not at the forefront of her thinking…it all comes down to context


Hi kedera,

I am also a Protestant researching Catholicism, and I thought of a book I had run across that might be helpful to you. I haven’t read it yet, just been wanting to when I finish the other stack of books that I’m reading. So I can’t review the book for you, but it looked promising to me. It’s called The Catholic Church in History: Legend and Reality by Keith Lewis. The author is a professor at a Catholic Seminary, St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, CA, so he’s not an anti-Catholic trying to discredit the church or anything. But on the other hand, he seems like he’s trying to make a realistic assessment of the situation. I’ve posted a book description below.

You know, it’s funny, but as a non-denominational Christian (None of my churches have ever been connected to any other chruches at all!) I still never felt removed from any of the atrocities committed in church history. I felt that all of them were a painful part of my heritage as a Christian. I felt like Catholic and Protestant failures alike were a part of my past, thinking, “Wow, look at what a mess we Christians have made.” It’s sad, but has to be recognized. And the fact that atrocities were committed in the name of Christ, does not necessarily preclude that idea that their perpetrators didn’t think they were doing the right thing. I think perhaps one of the scariest realizations that in my life was that good intentions (while very important) are not a guarantee of doing right. It makes you really start begging God for wisdom! I wonder what other generations will think of our own? What horrors are we committing that we have blinded ourselves to? It makes you think!

However (not to be too gloomy:)) I think it is good to remember that even during some of the more horrifying chapters in church history, there were still saints walking with God and living in charity. One of my favorite saints is St. Francis de Sales. (I’m reading his Introduction to the Devout Life. It’s beautiful.) He lived during the time of the Reformation, and was basically in charge of reconverting Protestants in the area of Geneva. He was largely successful, but it was not through the violence that many others were emplying at that time, but through holiness, charity, and humility.

I just want hear that the Catholic Church, today, feels badly about it, and that they wouldn’t try to justify, in any way the wrongdoing of the Church leaders of the past (notice I say Church Leaders, not the Church).

I think that you have really hit the nail on the head here. I think the key should be our current reactions to church failings (past and present). It’s important not to just casually dismiss Christian failures (our own included!), but we should look at them carefully and in context. And when we find wrong we should grieve over it, and seek to find understanding from it, and heal what we can. From everything I’ve heard about John Paul II, he seemed to approach these situations with admirable humility and wisdom. This thread is motivating me to try to find some of what he said on the subject. Maybe you might find that helpful as well! Best wishes!

Book Description:
“The darkest chapters of Catholic history usually evoke either denial or uninformed prejudice. But under the leadership of visionaries such as Pope John Paul II, a new way of understanding history as emerging–reconciliation and hope come not from ignoring history, but from a close examination of the forgotten facts, with clues to their meaning for life today. In The Catholic Church in History, Keith Lewis helps us reexamine what really happened in these controversial events, and shows us how Catholic faith offers tools for addressing mistakes and moving forward. Topics include: The Rise of Islam, The Crusades, The Excommunication of Martin Luther, Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Inquisition, The Trial of Galileo, Colonizing the New World, Pius XII, the Nazis, and the Holocaust.”


I was raised a Southern Baptist and attended Baylor University. While I was there, they had a “Reformation Day,” Luther, of all people, loomed large in the celebration. I remember pondering the irony of Southern Baptists celebrating Luther, who loathed Anabaptists (the precursor to modern Baptists) and wanted them executed.


Um… this site is in the same category as Wikipedia-- untrustworthy and not penned by scholars or historians.

You have only to read their entry on Islam to understand their extreme bias.

Whereas every “misdeed” of Christian groups is detailed in the Christianity area, there is absolutely no mention of the persecution of Christians by Muslims or the aggressive offensive Islam made into Europe by means of the sword or the atrocities of Islam. Islam is painted with a very rosy picture, while Christinaity is painted with a very dark picture.

The only nod towards any aggression on the part of Islam is the section that talks about the vast conspiracy and false accusations *against *Islam.

You need to really think twice about this “source” which contains a lot of half-truths, innuendo, and outright false statements.

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