And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. And when I saw her, I wondered greatly...

"For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality."

- Rev. 17:6, 18:3 NASB

"The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone...the most delicious of moral treats."

- Aldous Huxley

"One with God is always a majority, but many a martyr has been burned at the stake while the votes were being counted."

- Thomas B. Reed



The Inquisitions


And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

- Rev. 6:9-10 NASB


8.1 Crusading against heretics

During the Crusades, nations designated by the Church of Rome as enemies of Christianity were the enemies initially targeted for attack. By the latter stages of the Crusades, it dawned on the Roman church that the enemies of its gospel permeated not just the Holy Land, but the Church's own European backyard. What was called for was essentially a Crusade by Europeans against Europeans.

Incrementally, the Church of Rome expanded its enemies list to include anyone who did not completely subscribe to the authority of the Pope and to the teachings of the Roman Church. These were "heretics" in the eyes of Rome.

Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the few more godly figures of the Crusades, was about the last major voice to advocate the winning over of heretics with persuasion instead of persecution. Unfortunately, beliefs to the contrary were dominant and would eventually result in centuries of search-and-destroy missions; missions intent on ferreting out heretics from among the population and punishing their alleged crimes of the mind. This is the terrible period known as the Inquisition.

8.2 Inquisitors are officially sanctioned

An inquisition was originally a lower form of criminal case. In 1166, the English Assizes of Clarendon began making general inquests for the expulsion of heresy (actually the basis of today's grand jury format). Soon after that, the Inquisition officially came into being as the Church of Rome appointed its bishops to go about questioning everyone in their various districts to find out who was and was not a heretic.

At this early point, there was no consistent or exact guideline to determine the degree to which a person's involvement in heresy merited punishment. Some secular authorities already had laws in place against heresy. The punishments, if any, ranged from fines to whippings. Expectedly though, it was not long before people learned to tell the roving bishops exactly what they wanted to hear and normal life resumed after the bishops moved on. Heresy against the Church of Rome continued unabated.

The Church of Rome eventually realized the bishops' ineffectiveness and decided that trained experts were needed for the job. It called for specific and permanent tribunals dedicated to prosecuting heresy. That tribunal would be free of local prejudices (for the sake of impartiality), sworn to renounce worldly pleasure, without the promise of personal gain, and trained by the Church of Rome for the detection and conversion of heretics.

These boards of inquiry, once established, were given total absolution so as to allow them uninhibited freedom in dealing with uncooperative citizenry. In Rome's view, absolution was necessary in light of the difficulty inquisitors would face in trying to extract peoples' secret thoughts and opinions; an area in which both crime and criminal were equally difficult to ascertain. (Later in 1245, Pope Innocent IV would even extend absolution to spies which inquisitors might appoint in order to trick a community's inhabitants into speaking unguardedly.)

Though the Church of Rome summoned and initially funded the inquisitions, it decreed that the inquisitions were to be instituted and carried out by the individual nations (thus the Italian Inquisition, Spanish Inquisition, etc.). Surprisingly, a very general and non-specific edict that established inquisitional courts actually met with public approval in the early 1200's. But neither the public, nor perhaps even Rome, recognized the horrible extermination process that was about to be loosed.

8.3 Destiny of a heretic

At the Lateran Council of 1215, Pope Innocent III decried the Church's attitude concerning the destiny of heretics and pronounced it the duty of each secular power to execute them. Around 1220, Frederic II was coronated and, having been charged with heresy himself, sought to prove his innocence by passing edicts so cruel that his allegiance toward Rome would hopefully go unquestioned. Henry Charles Lea documents Frederic's edicts that laid the foundation for the centuries of terror to follow:

Heretics of all sects were outlawed; and when condemned as such by the Church they were to be delivered to the secular arm to be burned. If, through fear of death, they recanted, they were to be thrust into prison for life, ... All the property of the heretic was confiscated and his heirs disinherited. His children, to the second generation, were declared ineligible to any positions of emolument or dignity, unless they should win mercy by betraying their father or some other heretic. All 'credentes', fautors, defenders, receivers, or advocates of heretics were banished forever, their property confiscated, and their descendants subjected to the same disabilities as those of heretics. ...This fiendish legislation was hailed by the Church with acclamation... 16

A large number of the Inquisition's executions are recorded by John Foxe in first-hand accounts within his 1563 book Christian Martyrs of the World. In order to appreciate the magnitude of fear that was generated by the Inquisition's public burnings (and to dispel any Hollywood version of such an end), here is a small portion of frightfully graphic detail from just one of Foxe's observations:

Even when [John] Hooper's mouth was black and his tongue swollen, his lips continued to move until they shrank to the gums. He knocked on his breast with his hands until one of his arms fell off. Then he knocked with the other - fat, water, and blood dripping off the ends of his fingers - until his hand stuck to the iron around his waist.

Hooper was in the fire for over forty-five minutes, suffering patiently even when the lower part of his body burned off and his intestines spilled out. Now he reigns as a blessed martyr in the joys of heaven that are prepared for the faithful in Christ. 17

8.4 The Inquisitions worsen

When the Crusades began faltering in the Holy Land and the Muslim nations gained the upper hand, the Popes' and European kings' frustrations were seemingly vented on their own people in an even more merciless quest to route out heresy at home. In the year 1223, all non-Latin Scripture was banned. Christian sects like the Waldenses were sought out for persecution. The Spanish Inquisition eliminated nearly all the Protestants in Spain with over one third of its 291,000 victims suffering under the Dominican monk Thomas of Torquemada. 18

In 1252, Pope Innocent IV greatly expanded the powers of inquisitors to include the placing of all rulers, knights, and inhabitants under their subordination. He also reversed an earlier papal decree to now entitle inquisitors to one-third of all fines they imposed and one-third of all property and possessions they confiscated. As you can imagine, personal financial gain greatly accelerated the "discovery" of heretics and increased the number of arrests and burnings.

8.5 A typical inquisitional hearing

-- On the inquisitor's arrival

In large cities, inquisitional hearings became a frequent occurrence. On an inquisitor's typical visit, everyone within a certain radius had to appear before him within twelve days or face de facto excommunication. They had to tell what they knew of any heretics in the district and report anyone whom "differed in life and morals from the common conversation of the faithful". 19

As a general rule, the more suspects one named, the better chance of leniency or even immunity from being prosecuted one had. It proved beneficial for townspeople to come forward early and indict anyone whom might later name them. That was done in hopes of impeaching the other person's credibility first. All such information was then recorded in detail, reproduced fourfold, and distributed throughout the countryside. This was done so that no single act of vandalism could destroy the Inquisition's growing database of rumors, accusations, and innuendoes.

-- Upon being arrested

Upon being arrested, no limit was placed on how long a suspect could be held; some cases ran into decades before even the first hearing. The age of seven was the minimum allowable age for arrest and imprisonment. Lea describes the prisons as "a horrible place, consisting of small cells, deprived of all light and ventilation, where through long years the miserable inmates endured a living death far worse than the short agony of the stake." 20

-- Prosecution and defense

Once in court, the inquisitor notoriously functioned as both prosecution and defense. The inquisitor was typically forbidden to reveal the names of witnesses against the suspect, and sometimes would not even tell the suspects what the charges were against them. It was up to the suspects to guess what they had been charged with, who the witnesses were against them, and sufficiently discredit the testimony of each. Failure to do so could result in death.

-- Confession and sentencing

If any suspect did not quickly confess their guilt, they could be returned to prison until such time the inquisitor wished to review them again, if even at all. Some suspects were sentenced to being crushed to death for refusing to plea.

Any witness who had supported a suspect later pronounced guilty could, by law, receive the same punishment as that suspect. And once a suspect was declared guilty, their spouse was also condemned unless they had denounced the other during the trial. If perchance a person was declared not guilty and then re-arrested at some future point, death by fire immediately and without trial was the rule.

-- Immunity for the wealthy

As inescapable as all of this sounds, there were loopholes for a few. The inquisitors answered solely to the Pope, and they and their spies had the Pope's approval to continually absolve one another from all sins and crimes. Bishops were largely immune from prosecution as well.

With the passing of time, inquisitors began extending their absolutions and immunities to wealthy or influential persons in exchange for generous contributions. However, this usually happened only where there was a blatant absence of evidence or where the absence of sufficient force prevented the arrest of prominent persons.

-- Re-execution of the dead

On the flip side of immunity, not even the dead were free from trial and execution. At any point, one's dead ancestor could be charged with suspicion of heresy, dug up, put on trial, found guilty, and their remains burned. The dead ancestor's estate, previously left to the heirs, was then confiscated by Rome (a similar trial was specifically ordered by Pope Pius II in 1458). 24

By this time, the one advantage that living suspects had over the dead was that the living had the right to appeal to the Pope for clemency. However, none but the elite had the legal know-how to make effective use of this rule. Furthermore, anyone who assisted a suspect in filing an appeal faced the possibility of being charged with impeding the Inquisition. At the inquisitor's discretion, both persons could burn at the stake. Even the Friar Bernard Delicieux was burned in 1319 for merely vocalizing concern about the appeals process.

8.6 The Crusades fail and the Inquisitions worsen again

Worse things were to follow as the Crusades were ending in dismal failure. The use of torture was sanctioned by Pope Alexander IV in 1256 for the so-called greater good. Lea writes of Pope Urban VI's personal management of torture as late as 1385:

When it came to the turn of the Cardinal of Venice, Urban entrusted the work to an ancient pirate, whom he had created Prior of the Order of St. John in Sicily, with instructions to apply the torture till he could hear the victim howl; the infliction lasted from early morning till the dinner-hour, while the pope paced the garden... 21

Inquisitors knew that the public's fear of them was great and that a general atmosphere of terror had been created. They also knew that this terror was leading the innocent as well as the guilty to say anything in court. (Likely because false accusation was about the only sin not being prosecuted.) The conclusion was finally reached that no one, innocent or guilty, could be trusted to volunteer any trustworthy information.

Therefore, having received Rome's holy sanction, torture became mandated for both suspects and witnesses. If either tried self-starvation to escape the agony of their torture, it was considered an admission of heresy and the offender was burned. In the case of anyone who pleaded innocent upon arrest but later under torture gave in to the charges against them, they were still in trouble. They had now become susceptible to the charge of perjury for having contradicted their initial plea.

8.7 The creation of additional thought-crimes

The daily management of all these inquisitorial duties were reportedly becoming too burdensome for the papal office so, in 1262, Pope Urban IV created what was essentially an Inquisitor General's office. The Church of Rome would still maintain an active role by defining new capital crimes such as doubt of faith and impeding the Inquisition. With the establishment of these crimes, even the plea of innocence or withstanding of torture (both which prolonged what was assumed to be one's eventual confession) could be considered impeding to the Inquisition's timely prosecution of heresy if a church prosecutor so wished.

In addition to the heinous crime of pleading "not guilty", the definition of heresy was expanded to include omissions as well as commissions. Roland Bainton writes, "Heresy might be detected in the omission of any reference to the intercession of Mary and the Saints,..." 22

In time, the most frightening crime of all was defined: suspicion of heresy. Rumors, grudges, insinuations, a careless word, a mistaken act - any one of these could sentence even the godliest person to burning. This could be and was inferred from anything. Foxe writes of Cicely Ormes who "drew the attention of the officers to herself by speaking encouraging words to the two prisoners on the way to the stake. For this she was put in prison and soon after taken before the chancellor for examination." 23

She was later burned to death between the hours of seven and eight on the morning of September 23, 1557.

8.8 The beginning of the end

Delicieux was just one of many to question the horror that was ravaging Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. The Inquisition had not only been effective at crushing most local churches into subordination to Rome, it had a chilling effect on European culture as a whole:

As no man could be certain of the orthodoxy of another, it will be evident how much distrust must have been thrust upon every bargain and every sale in the commonest transactions of life. The blighting influence of this upon the development of commerce and industry can readily be perceived... It was this, among other incidents of persecution, which arrested the promising civilization of the south of France and transferred to England and the Netherlands, where the Inquisition was comparatively unknown, the predominance in commerce and industry which brought freedom and wealth and power and progress in its train. 25

Not every Pope was a zealous proponent of torture and fiery death. Some even pronounced edicts aimed at rescinding some of the Inquisition's powers. However, inquisitors largely maintained that the total absolution given to them and their office by previous popes had technically cleared them of wrongdoing. This was their logical, albeit sinister, justification of all that was transpiring.

The Inquisition began to fade only when Europe's monarchies began to be affected by the feudal system, when European nations became distracted by wars against one another, and when the influence of individual citizens began to grow. A great many persons had fed the Inquisition's insatiable fires and their countrymen had not forgotten them.

Over time, nations incrementally withdrew their support from inquisitions as well as from the Church of Rome; England being one of the first to do so. But before the Inquisition's final disappearance in the eighteenth-century, out from it would emerge the mercifully revitalizing periods of the Renaissance and the Reformation.



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The terror of the Inquisitions is nearly unparalleled.

Wars in the twentieth century claimed far more lives, and the enemy was usually well defined and engaged over just a few years. But the Inquisitions lasted for centuries, and anyone could become the enemy for as little as being rumored to hold wrong thoughts - a horrifically easy standard to meet for the punishment of being roasted alive.

This section retraces the Inquisition's progression from its welcomed beginning to becoming a dreaded extermination machine.

Among its many victims, the murder of so many heroes and heroines of the Christian faith helps reveal the truly evil, unbiblical motivations behind the whole gruesome affair.

1. Crusading against heretics
2. Inquisitors are sanctioned
3. Destiny of a heretic
4. The Inquisitions worsen
5. A typical Inquisitional trial
6. The Crusades fail
7. Creation of thought crimes
8. Beginning of the end


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