Saturday, May 12, 2012


So for whatever reason, I've been looking at the inquisition.  I guess I was curious as to what the Catholic church had to say for itself.  This is a part of history I passed over, thinking it inconsequential as it concerned my own faith journey. I was surprised to discover the inquisition wasn't confined only to the middle ages. In fact, there were many within & outside of Europe, beginning after the time of the crusades & continuing in some places as late as the 1860s! The church wanted to shut down those splinter groups who didn't adhere to church teaching... that is, those engaging in heresy.

The inquisitors were usually priests. The Pope sent them out to "question" people, but they weren't allowed to do harm. This was the job of the civil authorities. Its important to remember that there was no separation of church & state at this point, thanks to Emperor Constantine in the 3rd century.  Heretics meant trouble not only for the church, but for the political environment as well. Its said that the civil authorities are the ones who enacted the torture, etc. and the priests were essentially there to lead the interviews & officiate the proceedings. Its all very complicated.... a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation that got out of control... but that doesn't excuse what happened.

Inquisition is a sad fact of history. But what struck me is that many of the famous saints lived during this time period... Were they all living under rocks while it was happening? Were they confined to their monasteries or convents or forbidden from speaking out against it? Did they really believe that torture & killing was the best way to spread the love of Jesus Christ? How could they live life as usual? How could they pray, preach or write about their mystic ecstasies & study the scriptures? How could they partake of the Eucharist with a clean conscience? So far, I can't find anything that speaks out against the awful things that were taking place in the name of God...

How do I reconcile the fact that this expression of faith I've chosen once considered inquisition right & necessary in the eyes of God? Can I trust that it will never happen again? The office still exists under the name "Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith". Has its mindset really changed in modern times? I know whose side I'll be on if it ever happens again... I think I would rather be a heretic in the eyes of the church than assent to such blatant disregard for the command of Christ to LOVE.

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