Reformation - Only Catholics were violent?

I’ve had a discussion with a protestant guy recenty, who is really eager to attack my Catholic faith. Last time, after having fierce debates over several doctrines, he came up with the sins of Catholics against Protestants during the age of Reformation: punishment of death by burning, burning Bibles, and the like. He claims that in turn Protestants did not kill Catholics and did not commit anything violent against them. As far as I know it’s not true, but I have no exact data on this. I don’t know names, places, dates, figures. Could you help me with this? Or am I right at all? I really didn’t want to quarrel with him, but I wouldn’t like to accept such kind of an approach. And I’ve also became interested to know more on this topic due to our discussion.

Puritans were vicious against other protostents. Names that come to mind is the “Quaker Jesus” Nayler, and “Quaker martyr” Mary Dyer, I just did a report on Quakers so they are fresh in my mind.

Thank you for your quick response. Actually, we discussed about the European scene in the 16th century, the age of Zwingli, Calvin and Luther. I’m more interested to know if their followers were the only victims of religious intolerance of the age, or did they also commit sins against Catholical individuals and/or communities.

Research what happened in England during the last 20 - 30 years of a Catholic King and the first 20 - 30 years of a Protestant king. This should make it clear that both Catholics and Protestants are guilty of this and also make you able to point out that it was the rulers of the country who are really to blame moreso than any church.

I’m surprised to hear that Quakers would be ‘vicious’ against anyone–isn’t nonviolence a central tenet of their faith? They were conscientious objectors during American wars. Quakers (the ‘Society of Friends’) aren’t the same as Puritans, I’m pretty sure. :confused:

To the OP’s question: The Protestant city council of Geneva (Calvin’s base) burned theologian Michael Servetus atop a pyre of his own books for being a heretic. (He was one–he tried to throw out the Trinity–and the Church wasn’t too fond of him either.) Calvin himself lobbied that he be beheaded instead. :shrug:

There are well-documented cases of systematic persecution of Catholics under the Church of England–St. Thomas More, etc.

Zwingli’s alliance in Switzerland tried to institute a food blockade against Catholic regions of Switzerland. (The resulting conflict ended in his death). They also expelled all the Anabaptists from Zurich for refusing to have their infants baptized and re-baptizing adults. One, Peter Manz, returned and continued the practice. He was executed by drowning, with a several others.

I was surprised to discover that Henry VIII had problems with reformists in his country. Apparently, other Protestants such as Thomas Cromwell found the Anglican Church too Catholic. Henry VIII eventually had Cromwell killed, an event he later regretted.

Luther, and protestantism, would be forgotten footnote in history except that Luther’s ideas were taken up by a group of German princes who saw them as an opportunity to grab wealth and power for themselves at the expense of the Church and the German Emperor. They forced the people of the States they controlled (owned) to convert to Lutheranism - mostly against their will. a few years later the peasants revolted and the Lutheran princes ruthlessly put down the revolt with great bloodshed, lavishly praised by Luther who wrote (with unintended irony) “nothing is more hateful to God than a rebel”!

The overall “scorecard” of those killed for their religious beliefs in the 16th century would show that Protestants killed, at the very least, about the same number that Catholics killed, and probably significantly more.

If you like you can add the tens of thousands killed because they were convicted of “witchcraft” - nearly all of them killed by protestants.

Protestantism took off because of the desire of secular rulers to control the church and their people, forming the first “police state” ; St Thomas More mentioned above was apparently the first person in history to be “legally” sentenced to death for what (it was assumed that) he thought (not for what he said or did). The idea that the protestant movement introduced, or intended to introduce, freedom of choice in religious (or any other) matters is a lie invented by 19th century protestants…

It’s also ironic that combative protestants give Catholics a belting over the trial of Galileo. 16th and 17th century protestants were FAR more violently opposed than Catholics to new theories in astronomy and other sciences.

Look up Switzerland under Calvin.

Sorry to not clarify, the Quakers were the ones being attacked or mistreated by the Puritans. For the most part Quakers and Catholics got along quite well even though they had theological polarity, but they tended to be on the same side of social justice issues.

Wish I could find a good picture of Solomon Kane.
:smiley:

Your friend is totally wrong on this. Catholics sufferred terrible persecution in places like Geneva and (especially) England. Read Evelyn Waugh’s biography of St. Edmund Campion. Wikipedia has a list of some of those killed: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_martyrs_of_the_English_Reformation

Most Protestant persecution of Catholics occurred in England, where Catholics were executed as traitors both under Henry and Elizabeth (and even under the Stuart monarchs as well). Some Protestant apologists will claim that this was political rather than religious, and there is some truth to this. There was a difference between treason and heresy (contrary to what some Catholics on this forum have claimed in past discussions of this subject), and the reason Catholics were persecuted in England was that they were considered de facto disloyal. But the other side of it is that many of these Catholics were clearly not disloyal in any sense that would be recognized as legitimate today. One parallel (I don’t claim that it’s exact) would be if modern Western governments were to make Muslim communal Friday prayer a crime punishable by death because some imams were using Friday prayers to incite violence. This would indeed be religious persecution, even though it had a political context and motivation. Another parallel is the way Christians have often been persecuted in Communist countries as agents of imperialism and capitalism. Communists would claim that this wasn’t religious persecution per se, but I think most Christians would disagree!

In the Netherlands there was a massacre of Carmelite friars. And in the riots and mob violence that took place across Europe, Catholic clergy and religious, and laypeople who were involved in Eucharistic processions and similar events, were often targets. However, I do not know of any instance of the judicial execution of a Catholic by a Protestant government on the Continent that could reasonably be described as religious persecution. (I word it that way to exclude such things as the execution of a Catholic who had assassinated or attempted to assassinate a ruler for religious reasons–even though the crime had a religious motivation, executing a murderer cannot be considered an act of religious persecution, just as the execution of the Protestant conspirators of Amboise in 1560s France was not an act of religious persecution.) And Natalie Zemon Davis, who studied religious violence in 16th-century Lyons, came to the conclusion that Protestant violence was directed primarily against Catholic sacred objects and rituals, and only incidentally against persons, while Catholics saw the mere existence of heretics as polluting. I think this explains a lot about the relative patterns of religious violence.

A final point: Catholics were never executed as heretics, and I think this is actually a point Catholic apologists can use in their favor. Protestants knew that it would be patently absurd to bring a charge of heresy against someone for believing and practicing what everyone had believed and practiced until recently. When people were executed by Protestant governments as heretics (Michael Servetus is the most obvious example, but there were several in England as well), it was because they were too radical in their break with Christian tradition.

Edwin

It really sounds like he’s basically making up history. I’m not sure if it applies but some people will do anything to win an arguement, it seems the winning is the important thing. They will even make things up. Both Protestants and Catholics have been guilty of that.

As for violence towards others at the time of the Reformation. Well I don’t know that any group was free of that. At the time there was an unhealthy relationship between the two kingdoms. In many places the church could basically condemn you for whatever and the state would carry out the execution. Royalty did not tend to value individual life very much, except of course their own. Any differences or conflicts within their kingdom was dangerous. So in many places people were executed as if it was no big deal.

For violence towards others, it’s rather interesting that Anabaptists were the most violent. You wouldn’t know it today, the peaceful Anabaptists were generally the ones that survived because Europe basically united to wipe out the violent ones.

Terms seem to hide the fact of the Anabaptist violence. For instance in Germany we speak of the Peasant’s Revolt and Luther is often criticised for his harsh words against them. Well, it was an Anabaptist revolt. They threw out the government and installed themselves as the voice of God. Some really strange things resulted. For instance if you were a merchant they would simply take from you without compensation what they wanted. If you disagreed, they killed you.

The most famous because it held out for so long was the city of Meunster, Germany. There is was a capital offense if you were a woman over a certain age and you weren’t married. Rational is you were witholding a man’s God given right to reproduce. The leader there had many wives. When he wanted to also marry the daughter of one of his wives he ended up killing first his wife, and then the daughter when they refused him.

The Batenburgers were probably the most violent group of all. The went underground and pretended to be both Catholics and Lutherans.

You see Anabaptist today basically make the case that they were right and as proof point to their persecution. But they completely lose the context that Anabaptists had overthrown governments and indeed had been extremely violent. You mix that in with the lack of value of individual life, and someone running into court and proclaiming the Anabaptists were in the town square was almost a guarantee to bring the authorities. They didn’t want another Meunster. Of course the Anabaptists said they were peaceful, who didn’t? So often they were banished or even killed.

There was of course violence by other groups as well. Anyone who tries to pretend there was only violence by one group is at best ignorant.

It’s not particularly interesting, and I’m not really sure that it’s true, unless you think that violence against an establishment is more violent than violence in support of an establishment.

You wouldn’t know it today, the peaceful Anabaptists were generally the ones that survived because Europe basically united to wipe out the violent ones.

Terms seem to hide the fact of the Anabaptist violence.

Well, the problem is that there was never a unified movement called “Anabaptists.” Scholars speak of the “Radical Reformation,” which was a very diverse set of movements.

It is certainly true that Mennonites have had a tendency to tell the story as if those Anabaptists who believed and acted like them were the “real” Anabaptists, and that this doesn’t reflect the way things looked in the early 16th century.

An excellent book on the Anabaptists and violence is James Stayer’s *Anabaptists and the Sword, *published in 1972.

For instance in Germany we speak of the Peasant’s Revolt and Luther is often criticised for his harsh words against them. Well, it was an Anabaptist revolt.

That’s not really an accurate description. As far as I’m aware few if any of the revolutionary groups practiced rebaptism, though some of them did reject infant baptism. Thomas Muntzer, the most important theologian (at the time) associated with the revolt, was not an Anabaptist by most definitions, though he did have a lot of common ground with them. It’s true that Balthasar Hubmaier, who did rebaptize, was also involved with the revolt early in his career (and it came back to burn him–literally–later!).

They threw out the government and installed themselves as the voice of God. Some really strange things resulted. For instance if you were a merchant they would simply take from you without compensation what they wanted. If you disagreed, they killed you.

This is a huge generalization–the revolutionary texts I’ve seen actually seem to have a very strong commitment to law and order, just law and order of a kind stemming from an egalitarian “godly law” rather than from the power of the landowning elite.

Don’t believe propaganda–even propaganda that is nearly 500 years old!

The most famous because it held out for so long was the city of Meunster, Germany.

You are confused. The Anabaptist takeover of Munster (yes, these guys really did rebaptize and clearly were Anabaptists by contemporary definitions) happened about ten years after the revolt of 1525, and was not directly connected with it.

You see Anabaptist today basically make the case that they were right and as proof point to their persecution.

It’s certainly true that Mennonites have whitewashed early Anabaptist history to some extent. Stayer’s book has largely corrected this within scholarly discussion of the period, but it unfortunately takes decades for ideas to filter down. However, the fact is that the Mennonites as an organized movement take their rise precisely from the rejection of violent methods, and the South German groups with which they affiliated were also those which rejected the use of the sword. The Schleitheim Confession of 1527 is very clear on the subject. So there always was a clearly nonviolent stream of the Anabaptist movement, and modern Anabaptists are within their rights to claim this stream as their source and disown the violent groups–which as you note did not survive anyway, for obvious reasons. The only place where this becomes a problem is when they speak as if this is what “Anabaptist” meant to most people in the early 16th century–it wasn’t. And as you note, it was easy for governments to treat all rebaptizers as potential revolutionaries, especially after Munster.

There was of course violence by other groups as well. Anyone who tries to pretend there was only violence by one group is at best ignorant.

Nonetheless, the Schleitheim confession existed and there were always (from 1527 on, obviously) people who subscribed to it. So it’s not true that no one in the 16th century renounced violence entirely. It’s just true that not everyone considered “Anabaptist” at the time fell into that nonviolent category.

Edwin

Nice one, I think it would make a good movie. Van Helsing was close, just Catholic.

Hi Pemeir

By all means study the history for your edification; fault is on all sides. If your friend is getting his history from Jack Chick or another fringe source more than likely you cannot reason with him. A quick way to tell this is ask him if Catholics killed more than 20 million Protestants. If he believes so, you have someone being fed by virulent ant-catholic sources.

God Bless

Researching More before and after England became Protestant gives one a rather interesting view of the more violent aspects of the Reformation.

I’m not disuputing anything that happened in the 1500’s here. But, to say that Protestant freedom of religion was invented by 19th century Protestants is nothing short of a bold faced lie demonstrably so by a cursory reading of the founding documents of the United States.

Yeah, PA (the Quaker State – founded by a Quaker) was a refuge for Catholics in the colonies.

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