So, I know there isn’t really such a thing as “the Inquisition”, rather there are separate ones such as the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition and many little ones, but not a giant, evil, looming institution that had offices in every town.
I have read a bit on the Spanish Inquisition, especially by Thomas F. Madden, and a lot of my misunderstandings have been cleared up. Thus, I can address attacks on the Church from that angle, however, I find myself tongue-tied with regards to the role of inquisitors in the witch hunts.
In the May 2014 edition of the infamous Awake magazine, there is an article entitled “The European Witch Hunts”, which treats the subject in a very abstract way, but which prompts some questions none the less. I should like to quote a few excerpts, pose questions related to them and then invite comments on every one of them.
“Looming large in this story is the Inquisition. It was created by the Roman Catholic Church in the 13th century “to convert apostates and prevent others from falling away,” explains the book Der Hexenwahn (The Witch Mania). The Inquisition functioned as a police force for the church.”
Q: Is that an accurate definition of Inquisition in this context? It wouldn’t be in the Spanish one, but what about witches?
“On December 5, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull, or document, that condemned witchcraft. He also authorized two inquisitors — Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer (also known by his Latin name, Henricus Institoris) — to combat the problem.”
Q: What exactly was the role of Pope Innocent VIII’s Bull? Did it represent endorsement of the Malleus Maleficarum? Was the burning of witches in accord with this document?
“In response to The Hammer of Witches and the papal bull issued by Pope Innocent VIII, major witch hunts broke out in Europe.”
Q: Is that correct, or were the real witch hunts (the non-secular ones) predominantly before that time?
“What does that ugly era teach us? One key lesson is this: When professed Christians began to substitute religious lies and superstition for the pure teachings of Jesus Christ, they opened the door to enormous evil.”
In addition, is it legitimate to speak of “The Church” inflicting witch hunts, or “The Church” endorsing such trials? I ask this, since it does seem a bit hypocritical to say “The Church did all these good things: Universities, hospitals, etc.” when it was really many individuals, unless there was official ecclesiastical teaching or conciliar pronouncement to do so. But then on the other hand to say “Yeah, that was a bad Pope who issued that bull, but it wasn’t ‘The Church’”. :shrug: