The Catholic Church and Persecution

Thanks to all for your patience and diligence in answering the various questions I have posed. Now I have a resource to use when my former church-mates ask me questions.

I do have one more.
This argument was put forth on many occasions in refuting the Catholic Church:

“During the last 2000 years, the Catholic Church has put to death millions she believed to be heretics. Such as Jews, dissident Catholics, Protestants, anabaptists, Hussites, Lollards, Waldenses, Albigenses and many others who refused to convert. Yet today, the Catholic Church calls people who hold these very same opinions ‘separated brethren’ and teaches it is wrong to persecute on the basis of religious belief.”

How can both of these be correct? If the Catholic Church is an unchanging Church, how is this explained?
Thank you!

It’s funny, sometimes, to listen to Reformation rhetoric. The things that the Catholics did following the Reformation? Oh, definitely that’s the evil, nasty Catholics. What about the things that Christians did prior to the Reformation? Oh, that’s definitely the fault of ‘Catholics’, too! :rolleyes:

, dissident Catholics, Protestants, anabaptists, Hussites, Lollards, Waldenses, Albigenses and many others who refused to convert.

Let’s not forget that it wasn’t just Catholic secular leaders who tortured and killed Reformation Christians; at the same time, Reformation Christian secular leaders were persecuting Catholics, too!

How can both of these be correct? If the Catholic Church is an unchanging Church, how is this explained?
Thank you!

The way to understand them is to understand what is actually ‘unchanging’ in the Church. Doctrine and Dogma – proceeding from the teaching of Christ, as found in Apostolic teaching and the Bible – cannot change. So, for instance, the Church will never say “hey, you know that ‘Resurrection’ thing we keep going on about? Yeah, that never happened.” :wink:

But, there are other things that the Church holds to, that can change: we call them ‘disciplines’ – they’re the rules in place that are appropriate to a certain time and/or location. Since their applicability is grounded in a particular cultural situation, these things can change. For example, “every Catholic must abstain from meat every Friday”, or “you must fast all day before Mass if you want to receive Communion at that Mass”, or “women must keep their heads covered in church.” All of these were appropriate at one place and time, and are no longer appropriate, so they’ve ‘changed’.

Other things can ‘change’, too – but they’re not teachings of the Church. Therefore, if secular leaders were persecuting or killing others, that’s something they did, that was not part of what the Church taught as ‘doctrine’ or ‘dogma’. So, when the Church teaches, “you shouldn’t be doing that,” it’s not changing its dogmatic teachings…!

That millions number: do you have a source?

Lutherans were not innocent in the years following 1517, so I shall ponder our own plank.

Suffice it to say what men do in the name of the Church isn’t always what Christ expects of His Church.


The figures are nonsense. For instance during the 400 year history of the Inquisition about 4000 people were executed , all of them by the state, none by the church

If the church is in control of the state and “hands heretics” over for execution, the church won’t do it, but gets someone else to do it, doesn’t give the church a “pass”. The church had the state in its back pocket…the distinction “smells”.:shrug:

Thus the Inquisition. Was to weed out wolves in sheep clothing from infecting and destroying the apostolic faith of the flock of Jesus Christ.

Remember a heretic during this time, is a learned (priest) Catholic in a teaching or leading position usually were under the demise of the local secular royal magistrate’s.

The Church under the inquisition looked to protect and or prevent the King’s magistrates from killing a “Catholic” heretic. When the heretic refused to listen to the Church or repent from his/her teaching errors in the secular King’s kingdom. The Church would release the heretic or false shepherd refusing repentance by excommunication.

By the biblical teaching of excommunication, the heretic removes him/herself from the protection of the Church, when the secular powers will retry the heretic in it’s secular court.

Many times, the secular magistrates would find citizen of the King teaching heresy, but also found guilty of treason to the King and or leading citizens to rebel against the King.

A case by case study of each heretic found guilty by secular powers, is the reality which sentenced a known excommunicated heretic to death.

This doesn’t smell, it was the reality of the time when secular powers who were loyal to their Catholic faith, when the Church does not have secular powers in their back pocket.

The Church was consistently battling secular Catholic Kings, who were supporting (financing) the office of Bishop’s and priest’s within their kingdoms found to be appointing their own unapproved Church bishops, and were found guilty of simony.

The back pocket theory is very debatable, when the facts of each case are presented.

But their is quite a distinction between MILLIONS killed and 4,000 executed over a 400 year period.

People were tortured by the Inquisition. Torture was allowed then but today it is taught that it is wrong to torture. Is torture morally right or wrong? At one time it is morally right, but at another time it is morally wrong? That does not sound very consistent?

Barns and Noble: Pilgrim Church: A Popular History of Catholic Christianity / Edition 2

Amazon: Pilgrim Church: A Popular History of Catholic Christianity / Edition 2

You might be able to find it at your local public library.

I am trying to decide on going the Deaconate program and one of our oldest Deacons gave me the first edition of this book to read.

The first edition has the Nihil Obstat Lawrence A Gollner

and an imprimatur from Leo A Pursley - Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend

I have found this to be a concise, no-holds barred review of the early church starting with just after Christ’s death thru (at the time of publish 1977) the current day. I usually do not like history books; however, this has been a very interesting read and has shed a lot of light on why the Church does now what it does today.

Are you just as concerned about other religions allegedly having the state in their pocket, or do they get free passes?

Let’s put this into perspective.

A Catholic heretic found guilty during the age of the inquisition, would consider abortion of our day an abomination and an extrinsic evil, deserving of burning at the stake, with out a trial; when secular laws today support and finance LEGAL abortions.

The public sensitivities to each subject in each respective time period must be respected.

During the inquisition time, it was a moral discipline for a righteous practicing Catholic to administer corporal punishment to themselves, or one would willingly accept such a corporal punishment as a discipline, which you are falsely labeling “torture” compared to today’s standard.

Back to the heretic. Who Would willingly accept these forms of disciplines or “torture” to prove his/her innocence not only to his peers and faith but to the secular powers who were looking on. Again, these heretics were learned Catholics in a teaching or leading position.

What is interesting, upon the heretic agreeing to a corporal punishment or torture as on lookers from afar would call it, at the end, if found innocent?, the accused heretic would be given a Church discipline of repentance which may have been of minor corporal or prayer discipline after a confession.

In fact, many of the corporal punishments administered to well to do religious Catholics were more severe in practice and longevity than the supposed willingness Torture =corporal punishment that gave witness and testament to the heretic.

Is this method of discipline exercised during it’s day moral? Yes. Is it moral compared to today’s standard of faith disciplines No.

What is consistent by the Church, is that a discipline is offered and given to those who repent of their sins.

The corporal discipline is still in place, but the practice of corporal disciplines has changed through out the ages.

Personally, I still exercise corporal punishment to my person of my own free will upon my priest approval, after confessing a mortal sin, by self whipping my bare back 10 times and a fast to discipline my person to refrain myself from falling back into that mortal sin. Is this barbaric or self torture to today’s standard? Is it morally wrong or morally right?

During the inquisition, I don’t think the King would of allowed the Church to torture It’s citizens beyond the disciplines of practice by the religious, that were considered the “norm” of the day, during these times.

Consider, the heretic under the inquisition is still under the protection of the Church from secular powers. After the confessed heretic is excommunicated “the Inquisition” of the Church has ended all it’s powers over the heretic. When it is the secular powers who have the power to exercise capital punishment upon it’s own citizens when found guilty by a secular court.

Plus the crusades , other inquisitions , Catholic slaughter of native Americans in north and South America , plus the many thousands of Reformation Christians killed , Yea that kinda adds up to at least one to two million with the possibility of more but this is a VERY VERY conservative estimate.

  1. “Millions” is a grossly unproven accusation.

  2. The world of the Middle Ages was in no way similar to the modern world. Crimes against the Church was treason, just as crimes against the King. When treason was committed, a trial was held (Inquisition) and the kings dispensed the justice.

  3. Jews are not heretics, neither are other religions. The charge of heresy was leveled at those who lured Catholics away from the Church with a false gospel. Those people were viewed as treasonous by both the religious and civil authorities, for good reason. Remember, all of Europe was Catholic at one time, including the Kings. The civil authorities didn’t want treasonous heretics living in their land any more than the Church did.

Where there existed large amounts of heretic sects, there was a great deal of civil discord that undermined the whole foundation of society. The proof is in the pudding: witch hunts were held, almost exclusively, in Protestant territories, including the US. There were very few witch hunts in Catholic countries. The presence of both Protestant and Catholic groups in the same country led to all kinds of suspicions of “witchcraft.” People simply stopped trusting each other.

  1. Various popes issued writs protecting the rights of Jews in Catholic lands:

…We decree moreover that no Christian shall compel them (Jews) or any one of their group to come to baptism unwillingly…Moreover no Christian shall presume to seize, imprison, wound, torture, mutilate, kill or inflict violence on them; furthermore no one shall presume, except by judicial action of the authorities of the country, to change the good customs in the land where they live for the purpose of taking their money or goods from them or from others.

In addition, no one shall disturb them in any way during the celebration of their festivals, whether by day or by night, with clubs or stones or anything else. Also no one shall exact any compulsory service of them unless it be that which they have been accustomed to render in previous times…

  1. The Crusades were called for after 300 years of Muslim aggression in the Holy Land. They were a defense of Christians and their property.

  2. Catholic slaughter of native Americans? Shades of the Protestant slaughter of native Americans in the US and their forced confinement on reservations? There’s plenty of blame to go around.

  3. How many Catholics were killed by Protestants? Plenty.

All people kill. ALL PEOPLE. All people are sinners who need a Savior. Catholics may have killed more than protestants because they have been around far longer. You can do a lot more sinning in 2000 years than you can in 500, but I’d say the protestants are catching up. Ridiculous topic to begin with. All people are jerks, face it. :stuck_out_tongue:

Falsely labeling torture? I consider the use of the rack or the strappado to be torture, as anyone would.
Torture was used during the Inquisition, contrary to what you claim. One method was the garrucha or the strappado, where the victim was suspended from the ceiling by the wrists, which are tied behind the back. Weights were tied to the ankles, with a series of lifts and drops, during which the arms and legs suffered violent pulls and were sometimes dislocated.
Sabatini, Rafael, Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition: A History, p. 190, Kessinger Publishing (2003), ISBN 0-7661-3161-0.
A second method was the use of the rack, which
consisted of a large rectangular wooden frame, with a roller at one or both ends. The “victim was positioned on the frame, his ankles were fastened to one roller and the wrists to the other. As the interrogation process progressed, a handle attached to the top roller was used to gradually stretch the limbs away from the body, resulting in excruciating pain. The ropes would pull the victim’s arms and legs, eventually dislocating his joints with loud popping noises, snapping his muscles and ligaments, and sometimes even ripping the person’s upper limbs right off his body.”
Carrol. James, Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History, p. 356, Houghton Mifflin Books (2002), ISBN 0-618-21908-0.

In short you can’t validate the number . It appears you want to count every instance where a. Catholic killed somebody in the last 2,000 years as example of the Church killing somebody

There were a whole lot of American native Indians killed, but not all by Roman Catholics.

I guess the logical question is, which Catholics alive today are responsible for any of these persecutions?
Which protestants alive today are responsible for persecutions done centuries ago?

And I await a source for your numbers.


Which ones did the Church kill?

The reason I put the paragraph in quotes is because this is what I was taught as a fundamental Baptist. They’re not my numbers, they are the numbers of the preachers who made the claim. Sorry if I was not clear in the OP.

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