When did executing heretics become immoral?


Not a troll post, but a genuine inquiry.

The Papal Bull, ‘Exsurge Domine,’ of Jun 15, 1520, condemned the errors of Martin Luther and his followers. one of them in particular which drew special attention from Pope Leo X intrigues me:

#33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.

This proclamation by Pope Leo X proves the Catholic Church taught that the burning of heretics was acceptable to God. Not a secret by any means, the Church Fathers and Thomas Aquinas among other speak highly favorably about purging the heathen by sword or flame. Better to cut off a branch than to let the entire tree fester etc.

With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death. - St Thomas Aquinas.

Now, while I am quite happy that the Catholic Church seems to have abandoned this practice for the most part, on what basis does it do so? Both the scriptures and the Church Fathers/Doctors of the Faith make it very clear that the slaughter of heathens is a perfectly valid way of preserving and furthering a Catholic utopia. On what theological basis did killing non-believers become unacceptable?


You seem stuck still… can you show documentation of the burnings?

I could post a Scriptural passage where it is taught that it is better for them to be given to death than allow their souls to be damned–yet, there’s no number to very that this indeed took place.

…just because in the yesterdays of television it was proposed that the moon was made of cheese, did the astronauts bring any cheese back with them one man landed on the moon?

Maran atha!



Most certainly. By no means an exhaustive list but merely to list a few highlights, including Catholics burned as heretics who were later proclaimed as saints centuries later.

Ramihrdus of Cambrai (1076 or 1077) (lynched)
Peter of Bruys († 1130) (lynched)
Gerard Segarelli († 1300)
Maifreda da († 1300)
Andrea Saramiti († 1300)
Fra Dolcino († 1307) (never tried by Catholic Church), Italy
Sister Margherita († 1307), Italy
Brother Longino († 1307), Italy
Marguerite Porete († 1310), Paris, France
Botulf Botulfsson († 1311), the only known person executed for heresy in Sweden
Jacques de Molay (1243–1314), burned after conviction by a tribunal under the control of King Philip IV of France, Paris, France
Geoffroi de Charney († 1314), burned with Jacques de Molay above, Paris, France.
Guilhèm Belibasta († 1321), last Cathar, Villerouge-Termenès, France
Cecco d'Ascoli († 1327), Florence, Italy

Na Prous Boneta († 1328)
Francesco da Pistoia († 1337)
Lorenzo Gherardi († 1337)
Bartolomeo Greco († 1337)
Bartolomeo da Bucciano († 1337)
Antonio Bevilacqua († 1337)
William Sawtre († 1401), Smithfield, London, England
John Badby († 1410), Smithfield, London, England
Jan Hus (1371–1415), Constance, Germany
Jerome of Prague (1365–1416)
William Taylor († 1423), Smithfield, London, England
St. Joan of Arc (1412–1431), Trial of Joan of Arc, Rouen, France
Thomas Bagley († 1431), Smithfield, London, England
Pavel Kravař († 1433)
Joan Boughton († 1494), Smithfield, London, England
Girolamo Savonarola († 1498), Florence, Italy (hanged and then burned)
Domenico da Pescia († 1498), follower of Savonarola condemned, hanged, and burned with him, Florence, Italy
Silvestro Maruffi († 1498), follower of Savonarola condemned, hanged, and burned with him, Florence, Italy
Joshua Weißöck (1488–1498)
Ipswich Martyrs († 1515–1558)
Jean Vallière († 1523)
Hendrik Voes († 1523), 1st martyr in the Seventeen Provinces
Jan van Essen († 1523), 1st martyr in the Seventeen Provinces
Jan de Bakker († 1525), 1st martyr in the Northern Netherlands
Wendelmoet Claesdochter († 1527), 1st Dutch woman charged and burned for the accusation of heresy
Michael Sattler († 1527), Rottenburg am Neckar, Germany
Patrick Hamilton († 1528), St Andrews, Scotland
Balthasar Hubmaier (1485–1528), Vienna, Austria
George Blaurock (1491–1529), Klausen, Tyrol
Hans Langegger († 1529), Klausen, Tyrol
Giovanni Milanese († 1530)
Thomas Hitton († 1530), Maidstone, England
Richard Bayfield († 1531), Smithfield, England
Thomas Benet († 1531), Exeter, England
Thomas Bilney († 1531), Norwich, England
Joan Bocher († 1531), Smithfield, England
Solomon Molcho († 1532), Mantua
Thomas Harding († 1532), Chesham, England
James Bainham († 1532), Smithfield, England
John Frith (1503–1533), Smithfield, England
William Tyndale (1490–1536), Belgium
Jakob Hutter († 1536), Innsbruck, Tyrol
Aefgen Listincx († 1538), Münster, Germany
John Forest († 1538), Smithfield, England
Francisco de San Roman († 1540), Spain
Étienne Dolet (1509–1546), Paris, France
Giandomenico dell' Aquila († 1542)
Henry Filmer († 1543), Windsor, England
Robert Testwood († 1543), Windsor, England

Anthony Pearson († 1543), Windsor, England
Maria van Beckum († 1544)
Ursula van Beckum († 1544)
Colchester Martyrs († 1545 to 1558), 26 people, Colchester, England
George Wishart (1513–1546), St Andrews, Scotland
Bartolomeo Hector († 1555)
Paolo Rappi († 1555)
Vernon Giovanni († 1555)
Labori Antonio († 1555)
John Hooper († 1555), Gloucester, England
John Rogers († 1555), London, England
Canterbury Martyrs († 1555–1558), c.40 people, Canterbury, England
Laurence Saunders, (1519–1555), Coventry, England
Rowland Taylor († 1555), Hadleigh, Suffolk, England
Cornelius Bongey, († 1555), Coventry, England
Dirick Carver, († 1555), Lewes, England
Robert Ferrar († 1555), Carmarthen, Wales
William Flower († 1555), Westminster, England
Patrick Pakingham († 1555), Uxbridge, England
Hugh Latimer (1485–1555), Oxford, England
Robert Samuel († 1555), Ipswich, England

Burning of Latimer and Ridley, Oxford, 1555
Nicholas Ridley (1500–1555), Oxford, England
John Bradford († 1555), London, England
John Cardmaker († 1555), Smithfield, London, England
Robert Glover († 1555), Coventry, England
Thomas Hawkes († 1555), Coggeshall, England
Thomas Tomkins († 1555), Smithfield, London, England
Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), Oxford, England
Stratford Martyrs († 1556), 11 men and 2 women, Stratford, London, England
Guernsey Martyrs († 1556), 3 women, Guernsey, Channel Islands
Joan Waste († 1556), Derby, England
Bartlet Green († 1556), Smithfield, London, England
John Hullier († 1556), Cambridge, England
John Forman († 1556), East Grinstead, England
Pomponio Algerio († 1556) Boiled in oil, Rome
Nicola Sartonio († 1557)
Alexander Gooch and Alice Driver († 1558), Ipswich, England
Fra Goffredo Varaglia († 1558)
Gisberto di Milanuccio († 1558)
Francesco Cartone († 1558)
Antonio di Colella († 1559)
Antonio Gesualdi († 1559)
María de Bohórquez († 1559)
Giacomo Bonello († 1560)
Mermetto Savoiardo († 1560)
Dionigi di Cola († 1560)
Gian Pascali di Cuneo († 1560)
Bernardino Conte († 1560)
Giorgio Olivetto († 1567)
Leonor de Cisneros († 1568), Valladolid, Spain
Luca di Faenza († 1568)
Thomas Szük (1522–1568)
Bartolomeo Bartoccio († 1569)
Dirk Willems († 1569), Netherlands
Fra Arnaldo di Santo Zeno († 1570)
Alessandro di Giacomo († 1574)
Benedetto Thomaria († 1574)
Francisco de la Cruz ((† 1578), Lima, Peru
Diego Lopez (martyr)|Diego Lopez († 1583)
Gabriello Henriquez († 1583)


Have I provided an adequate number of cases where individuals were burned in the name of Catholic faith? I don’t deny for some like Joan of Arc and Cranmer there were other political considerations as well, but their main charge leading to execution for all of these individuals was “heresy”.


The Church did not execute heretics. The state did. The Church handed down an ecclesial sentence. The state handed down a criminal sentence. In those cases, the state acted to defend not only Christendom but order within the state. Heresy was seen as a criminal offense precisely because it incited division, unrest, and rebellion against the state (and the monarch).

Church and state are no longer aligned this way, in the West. Secular laws no longer reflect a state religion in most places. Where they do, they no longer have penalties for those who profess the state religion and commit heresy within it nor for those who do not adhere to the state religion.

There are exceptions. Those state actors just happen to be something other than Christian. You can get yourself executed for a lot of things in some religious states that profess Islam and have laws that intermingle state and religion.


Could you cite the source where it states that it was the Catholic Church… and how many lynching translates to burning at stake?

Maran atha!



Did I say just burned at the stake? I stated individuals who were executed for heresy as highlighted in my OP, I didn’t imply there was just one method used to purge them, although Doctors of the Church like Aquinas do confirm fire is preferable. Charlmange for instance favored beheading by sword for Saxon Pagans, whereas I understand it was the older conservatives such as Tertullian was rather more partial to flammable liquids and fire.


Did you notice the dates?:

However, in 1534 King Henry VIII declared himself to be supreme head of the Church of England. This resulted in a schism with the Papacy. As a result of this schism, many non-Anglicans consider that the Church of England only existed from the 16th century Protestant Reformation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Church_of_England)

So you are claiming that while under the persecution of the king of England the Catholic Church burn at stake all those English citizens that rejected her and the king just stood by and let it happen cause at least the Church was not burning him, right?

Maran atha!



Yet, even then it was the Church that provided for a defense; the states did not afford any for any of their accused.

It is interesting how these people continue to pile things against the Church even when real historian continue to debunk the anti-Catholic myths–yet, for haters truth and reality are mere casualties of war.

Maran atha!



No, I’m claiming that shortly after Henry VII Mary I came to power and set about trying to purge England of non-Catholic influences. Not to insult her for that, her brother before her tried to do the same against Catholics.

I observe you also avoid answering the much later dates such as in the late 1700’s in Catholic states such as Spain where individuals were executed for deism etc.

Don’t take my word for it, take the Anglican Church’s own https://archive.org/stream/foxesbookofmarty00fox#page/n7/mode/2up

A full martyrology of Anglicanism.


Again, stating something and making a list is far from demonstration of proof.

Specially when you purposefully ignore the realities that transpired.

Maran atha!



While I appreciate that it was the State that carried out the sentence that doesn’t address the main point of my OP; that the church has formally decreed executing non-believers is acceptable and to state otherwise is a heresy.

Regardless as to who actually swung the axe, I am trying to discover why executing non-believers is no longer a heresy. I doubt today if the Spanish government started trying to burn Catalans alive in the name of Catholicism the Vatican would complain, but back then it was totally on board for the state executing people for heresy as the Catholic Church defined it.

It was then, now it isn’t. What changed dogmatically?


You asked me for a list if I recall, implying that I was making up the idea that people had been executed for heresy by Catholics in the name of that faith.

Explain why Spanish Deists were burned as recently as 1826, can you blame that on a megalomaniac Tudor? Again, please don’t take my word for it, google Cayetano Ripoll to get you started.


Did you inadvertently forget to check facts:

This list contains persons burned by various religious groups, after being deemed heretics. The list does not attempt to encompass the list of those executed by burning (such a one would include many other people such as victims of witch hunts or other persecutions). Some of the victims, such as Quirinus Kuhlmann and Jacques de Molay, were executed primarily for political purposes; the charges of heresy were simply official excuses. After they were convicted by the Church, they were turned over to the local government for execution because of religious restrictions that kept ecclesial clergy from actually carrying out the executions. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_burned_as_heretics)

So while it is good to blame the Church for all the bad; it is ignorance of the facts.

It’s like that fallacy about the millions that have died in “Christian” wars (about 7 millions in over 2000 years) while ignoring the 250 millions under secular wars/actions in just the last century or so (and counting).

Maran atha!



In the past capital punishment was acceptable. However, there was an article in the local Catholic diocese newspaper which said that Christians today could no longer accept capital punishment.


You’re not addressing the topic of the OP. I don’t doubt for some individuals some of them like the Templars had financial reasons behind their execution. What you’re missing out is that the Church was very happy to rubber stamp and offer a seal of approval for why they were executed. Executing them was established by the ecclesiastical authorities as being acceptable. Had the King of France come out and stated “We’re killing the Templars because I’m broke and I need cash” he’d probably have found resistance, doing so with “The Templars are Godless heathen and deserve death”; far better response with Church backing…

Also, doesn’t the fact the church delivers to verdict and sentence but not actually do the deed actually not seem worse? They’re ordering deaths but aren’t actually willing to carry them out in later centuries? What?


Again, truth and tale go hand in hand:

The Templars were closely tied to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the order faded.[10] Rumours about the Templars’ secret initiation ceremony created distrust, and King Philip IV of France – deeply in debt to the order – took advantage of the situation to gain control over them. In 1307, he had many of the order’s members in France arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and burned at the stake.[11] Pope Clement V disbanded the order in 1312 under pressure from King Philip (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_Templar)

So the “Church” jumped at the chance to persecute the Templars, right?

What do you suppose monarchs like that of N. Korea did back then, twiddle their thumbs and waited for the approval of the Church?

Maran atha!



Are you going to address the OP at any point in this thread or just keep trying to pin it on non-Catholic/non-ecclesiastics?

Again…Yes. I do not doubt that there were non-religious reasons behind individual executions. This does not deny that the Catholic church formally proclaimed that denying heretics deserve the death penalty is a heresy. Today it does not agree that non-believers and heretics automatically deserve death, this is not what the Church historically taught.

Pope Clement V went on to agree with Philip that the Templars deserved death, which is the point of my OP.

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