Understanding the burning of heretics

i know the church never oricially did this herself, rather turned the heretics over to the state.

my question is this, for the first 1000 years or so, killing of heretics was pretty much condemned, based on christ’s teaching to love your enemies.

from the 11th centurey to about the 15, things start to change.

the popes began somewhat endorsing the states view on punishment for heresy. why did this happen? was it wrong?

and if most of the states were christian, why were the punishments so severe in the first place?

My guess that people were more violent back then and serious about their faith. And there was reason to believe that the heretics would have also done things to Christians to cause Christians to act in a negative way towards them… Most people don’t look at the other side of the coin. The Church has always been a target of persecution since the beginning and the message of Jesus ‘the bible’ was under attack since the church began…Should the Christians always just ‘take it’ without ever fighting back?

In addition to that it was a different time and different day. Just look at what happened in Salem Massachusetts with the witch burning by Protestant Americans? Would that go on today? I hope not. Now look at the middle east and how serious they are about their beliefs. Its’ my hope and prayer that as they evolve they will see the errors of their ways and realize that killing is not the way of God.

I think it’s times of trouble that people learn the most which is part of Gods providence and helps nations to come to civility… Just look at how people were then and where they’ve gone… And God’s church stood the test of time, and all is part of God’s Providence.

I heard some figures about how many hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the holy wars in the middle ages. And the Christians did not succeed in those… Now in comparison there are MILLIONS of people killed in just this centuries secular wars such as the World wars and Vietnam…The Christ in us works to free the oppressed, but often that takes laying down ones life for another.

Anyway those are just some of my thoughts.

did the church teach it was moral? i know just because it was sanctioned doen’st mean it was right. for example, this probably wouldn’t happen today. or was it justified

No the church never taught that killing was right. God never taught that killing was a good but as we see in Scriptures that killing can be justified. So in the mind of the folks in the middle ages who did the killing (Not all), they thought they were justified.

Just as you’d be required to do in a scholarly examination, lets consider the facts as they are documented in the annals of history. If the question was taken to a judge how would he handle it?

First who were the people considered as heretics.
What made then be heretic?
How were they judged?
Who judged them and what law did he use?
What was the penalty, and who approved the penalty?
Who executed the penalty?

If we are able to answer these questions, then our conscience would be clean.

  1. Who were the people considered as heretics.
    One definition is: “A person who holds controversial opinions, especially one who publicly dissents from the officially accepted dogma of the Roman Catholic Church”.

  2. What made then be heretic?
    In the early history of Christianity, the church established the basic teachings of the faith. Those basics can be found in the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. Over the centuries, however, theologians and religious figures have proposed doctrines that contradict established Christian beliefs.

Reason; they raised an issue about new teachings (dogmas) in the church.

  1. How were they judged?
    The Inquisition was a Roman Catholic tribunal for discovery and punishment of heresy, which was marked by the severity of questioning and punishment and lack of rights afforded to the accused. While many people associate the Inquisition with Spain and Portugal, it was actually instituted by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) in Rome. A later pope, Pope Gregory IX established the Inquisition, in 1233,

  2. Who judged them and what law did he use?
    The papal inquisition was staffed by trained inquisitors or judges recruited almost exclusively from the Franscian and Dominican orders.
    Heresy was a crime against the state. Roman law in the Code of Justinian made it a capital offense. Rulers, whose authority was believed to come from God, had no patience for heretics.

  3. What was the penalty, and who approved the penalty?
    On May 15, Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull entitled Ad extirpanda, which authorized the use of torture by inquisitors.
    Punishments included confinement to dungeons, physical abuse and torture. Those who reconciled with the church were still punished and many had their property confiscated, as well as were banished from public life. Those who never confessed were burned at the stake without strangulation; those who did confess were strangled first.
    An estimated 31,912 heretics were burned at the stake, 17,659 were burned in effigy and 291,450 made reconciliations in the Spanish Inquisition. In Portugal, about 40,000 cases were tried, although only 1,800 were burned, the rest made penance.

The Church seemed to endorse some of it after the fact as well. There is Thomas More, for example, a man I admire for many things. He is known to have said, “the burning of heretics delights the night!”. This did not disqualify him from sainthood several centuries later.

Speaking of burning, the Salem witches were hung. I don’t know of any executions(state actions) by fire in British North America.

So, was it wrong to burn heretics?

If not, would you support it, if the power to do so existed?

Or, say the Pope were to issue a bull authorising torture. Would you be obliged to accept it, and see it enforced?

Fear the one who can kill the body and the soul, than the one who can kill only the body.
Burning/torturing of ‘heretics’ was ungodly, unchristian and a breach of the law.

The inquisitions were instituted by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) in Rome. Later pope, Pope Gregory IX established the Papal Inquisition in 1233 as a special court to curb the spread of heresy in response to the failures of a series of papal bulls.

Millions of innocent people were killed though the infamous inquisitions in Rome, France, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina etc. The Popes are to blame for issuing the Papal Bulls to exterminate ‘heretics’ who challenged their apostate Dogmas. Its dictatorial!

Burning of ‘heretics’ was witch-hunting and a show of might. It was brutal and it assumed the judgement of God. No wonder in revelation Rev:6:9: it says, “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held”.

Papal dogmas are apostate? Are you sure you are a catholic, as it says in the upper right hand corner?

My questions in post #6 are addressed to any Roman Catholic who would like to educate me as to modern teaching and what the Church and members of the Church believe today. I will say I have seen no big move to get the heretics lately, and am aware that when Protestants got topside in the wars of religion they were just as likely to reach for the firewood (or rope). I don’t have a hidden agenda here, honest.

Millions? Would you like to source that exaggerated claim?

What about the position in the Papal States where the Church was the State?

As a professional historian, I can tell you as a fact that “millions” did not die as a result of the Inquisition. Firstly, the Inquisition never even came to the New World. There was no point to it, since Native Americans were not heretics. In fact, they were given a protected position by many laws enacted by Spain and Portugal. Now… millions DID die as a result of exploitation by the Spanish and Portuguese, who used them as slaves, or who were exposed to new diseases they had no immunity to, but this was ILLEGAL under Spanish law, and this was a SECULAR exploitation that was condemned in the strongest possible terms by the church. However, due to the distance, many of these protective laws could not be enforced. (A good book to read about the topic would be “Bartolome de las Casas” by Lawrence Clayton.) Also, since Brazil, Argentina, etc. were colonies of Spain and Portugal, Protestants were forbidden from moving to the area. Aside from a few pirates, you don’t see any Protestants in these countries until the mid 1800s.

Now, in Europe, modern historians have made a thorough attempt to reconstruct the trials of the Inquisition. This is not as hard as it sounds, since the Inquisition actually kept excellent records. Interestingly, many people (especially in Spain), given the choice between being tried by the secular government or the church, actually chose the Inquisition, because the Inquisition, despite the problematic practices of torture and burning at the stake, actually made a reasonable effort to determine someone’s guilt. The secular institutions of the time were somewhat more lax and corrupt. Second, figures show that less than 1% of all of those who went on trial were actually executed. Believe it or not, the most common ruling in an Inquisition trial was “not guilty”. Among those that were found guilty, fines and penances were often the penalty. Although the exact number is a matter of some debate, it appears that no more than about 20,000 to 30,000 were executed in the entirety of the Inquisition across Europe. In Spain, the average number of executions works out to less than just 125 per year.

The Spanish Inquisition and the Portuguese Inquisition were NOT the Papal Inquisition. Over the years, the Papal Inquisition only lead to a few hundred deaths (if even that high). Execution was to admit defeat, that the Church was unable to save a soul from heresy, which was the goal of the inquisition

The Papal Inquisition was created to fight particular Catharism and Waldensians heresies.

The Spanish Inquisition was initiated by the King of Spain to rid non-Christians from his Kingdom. Priests in the Kingdom were forced by the King’s law to help ID non Christians… The non-Christian was then forced to convert or leave the Spanish Kingdom. The Portuguese Inquisition was pretty much the same thing.

They were NOT ran by the Church. Also back then, local Kings interfered with Church business and Priests were often forced by the Law of the King to comply. There was no telephone or email. A priest or Bishop could call the Pope and ask if they could tell the King to pound sand.

Even Wikipedia of all places has a much more accurate description of the inquisitions than you do.

it still doesn’t realy answer my question though.

did the church teach it was moral at the time? it hadn’t before that period and doesn’t now. jesus did tell us to love our enemies after all. i’m trying to understand because i always get attacked with things like this.

Applying the death penalty to heretics happened at a time when the Church and society in general were essentially the same thing, since everyone was Catholic. The kind of heresy that was punished with death had severe social consequences and generally involved encouraging active rebellion against both Church and state, to such an extent as to threaten the peace and lives of society as a whole.

Archbishop John Hughes, who was Archbishop of New York in the 19th cenury, had to answer the accusation that Catholics in government would punish and even execute Protestants in the US based on a concilliar canon from the middle ages authorizing the execution of certain heretics (the Albigensians). He responded as to why such heretics were actually put to death:

[quote=Archibshop Hughes, debate with John Breckinridge] *Let any man apply the doctrines of the Albigenses, simply on two points, viz. the tenet that the devil was the creator of the visible world ; and that, in order to avoid co-operation with the devil in continuing his work, the faithful should take measures by which the human race should come to an end ; and then say whether those errors were merely speculative. They were, on the contrary, pregnant with destruction to society. Was it persecution, or rather, was it not self-preservation, to arrest those errors? We shall see presently, however, that these men, like the Calvinists in France at a later period, took up the sword of sedition, and wielded it against the government under which they lived. We shall see, that long before the canon of Lateran was passed, their course was marked with plunder, rapine, bloodshed. And if so, it follows that their crimes against society springing from their doctrines, constitute the true reason of the severity of the enactment against them. *

St. Robert Bellarmine, his work De Laicis, explained how this was also only done after every other measure failed to protect society from such heretics:

[quote=St. Robert Bellarmine] Secondly, experience teaches that there is no other remedy; for the Church proceeded gradually, and tried all remedies; first, it fines, then exile, finally, it was driven to the penalty of death; for the heretics show contempt for excommunication and call them “cold thunderbolts;” if you threaten the penalty of fines, they neither fear God nor revere men, since they know that ignorant people will be found who will believe them and feed them. If you confine them to prison or send them into exile, they will corrupt their neighbors with their speech and those who are far away with their books. Therefore, there is only one remedy, send them timely to their place.

Are some people in this thread saying that it was moral to burn people for actual or alleged heresy?

Like any crime to be punished by death, to determine whether the punishment is morally acceptable, it depends on the nature of the crime and the necessity of the punishment for redressing the disorder introduced by the crime and protecting society. See my post above. For the punishment of heresy with death to be moral, it would depend on the nature of the society in question, the nature of the heresy, how it was propagated, the effects on society, and the necessary means to to arrest those effects. In our time, the circumstances that would justify such a punishment by the state are pretty much non-existent, with the exception of maybe certain individuals who engage in religion-motivated terrorism, like those described in my post above.

the nature of the heresy, how it was propagated, the effects on society, and the necessary means to to arrest those effects.

Do not those people who engage in terrorism you mention use these same criteria for justifying what they do? Relatively, if to the terrorists these criteria are satisfied, are you saying they act morally?

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