the slaughter of millions of innocent Bible believing Christians was the result of this ‘holy’ inquisition). Innocent III declared,
Italian historian Rino Cammilleri says, “When almost all of northern Europe – and particularly Protestant Europe –- was hunting witches, that phenomenon was non-existent in Spain.”
However, there were 30,000 women in Britain and 100,000 in Germany burnt as witches, not by any Inquisition! [William Thomas Walsh, *Isabella of Spain, 1930].
As noted scientist and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead remarked, in an age that saw a large number of “witches” subjected to torture and execution by Protestants in New England, “the worst that happened to the men of science was that Galileo suffered an honorable detention and a mild reproof.” [Alfred North Whitehead, *Science and the Modern World (New York: New American Library, 1963), p. 10].
Question from Gregory Dulmes on 09-08-2002: **
Why are we always apologizing for the inquisitions? Why should Catholics feel bad that Exsurge Domine condemned Luther for the error stating that the burning of heretics was against the will of the Spirit? I tire of self-righteous critics denouncing the Church on this. Let me attempt a defence:
Temporal rulers and states have the legitimate authority to administer capital punishment.
At the time of the inquisitions, the states involved were explicitly, formally, officially Catholic entities. Kings and emperors were crowned in religious ceremonies. Because the Church rebuilt Europe, these kingdoms derived their authority from the Church.
A heretic was both a proliferator of doctrinal error and a social revolutionary. To be a heretic meant one was dedicated to overthrowing both the Church and the temporal order, i.e., fomenting revolution.
The Church executed no one. The Church’s main role was to determine if the accused was actually a heretic or not. He or she was then turned over to the state - sometimes. The state’s official punishment for heresy was usually a death sentence.
Hence, since a heretic was both a false teacher and a social revolutionary, he threatened to unleash chaos in society. I have no doubt that, given the rulers of the time (rulers God allowed to be) that the will of the Spirit was to give the heretic his just deserts (i.e., justice), meaning death at the stake. This does not make God or the Catholic Church cruel or sadistic. Any one who thinks this is cruel can simply review the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when heresy triumphed. The tragedy in lives and souls lost speaks for itself.
Lastly, the inquisitions were not only not bad, but were good. Why? Because they were an advancement over the mob violence and vigilante justice that proceeded them. Everything was usually by the book, carried out by the due ‘controlling legal authorities’. If a man was executed, you can at least be sure that the accusations against him were true.
Where am I wrong in this?
**Answer by Matthew Bunson on 09-08-2002 (EWTN): **
Thank you for your views. They are shared by a great many people who object to the seemingly endless number of apologies demanded from the Church.