This is a dispute I had with someone I know.
He said that the point of putting people to death was to save the heretic’s soul. Only by burning the heretic could he be cleansed of his heresy and prevented from any other sin that could deny salvation. Thus, the death sentence was carried out for the good of the condemned.
I disagree, saying that the death sentence was carried out with the intent of protecting the community from the dangers of heresy. I specifically pointed out the writings of St. Thomas Aquinis on this topic. Principally his comparison of heretics to murderers, with heretics being far more dangerous to the community. And as murderers are put to death to protect the community, so too should heretics. I also pointed out that “fire” does not cleanse your sins, that is for the sacrament of reconciliation. Further, heretics were burned by secular authorities, not in a religous ceremony that promised salvation. Finally, heretics were often excommunicated and denied a Christian burial, which would certainly not be in keeping with his theory.
So who is right? Were heretics burned for their own good, with the process ensuring salvation?