In defense of the Holy Inquisitions.

A Catholic (sic) Answers tract on the Inquisition(s) states, "To non-Catholics it is a scandal; to Catholics, an embarrassment; to both, a confusion." Why do they think that the Inquisition is an "embarrassment" to Catholics? I am not embarrassed by it. Why should traditional Catholics be, or any true Catholic for that matter?

To understand the various Inquisitions, one must first understand Unam Sanctam. When a person was born in medieval Catholic Europe, Holy Mother Church was there at the very beginning of life to baptize that person and bring him or her into a state of grace before God and into union with the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. The Church was the guardian of one's soul, and the secular powers were guardians of civil order and peace. When it came for that person to die, the Church was there again, to do Her very best to see that the person died in a state of grace before the One and Triune God, so that individual could have (or eventually attain) everlasting life.

In medieval Europe, people had a genuine and real fear of Hell and Purgatory. For the most part, they took their Catholic faith very seriously and earnestly sought eternal life. For most people, the thought of losing their eternal salvation was a terrifying thought, and most people did their best to avoid eternal damnation. To die without Baptism or the final Sacraments of the Church was absolutely unthinkable.

Most Inquisitors felt the same way. They believed in a literal Hell, as a place of everlasting anguish and suffering. To them, Hell was a place like it is described in Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Fathers, a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" without any love or comfort of any kind. The historical evidence clearly shows that most Inquisitors were not interested in torturing and burning people, but did their very best to get heretics to confess and recant. For them, they were acting out of love for the salvation of a person's soul.

As an example, read the transcripts from the Condemnation Trial of Saint Jehanne la Pucelle (aka, Saint Joan of Arc). Even though the Inquisition that tried her was clearly illicit and acted out of malice towards her (which was clearly shown at the Trial of Rehabilitation that exonerated her in 1456), the record contains the phrase
everlasting fire in numerous instances. Even Saint Joan, a very devout and pious Catholic, asked the priests present at her execution to “please say a Mass for my soul.”  Here are some excerpts from her trial (May 2, 1431):

When it was explained to her what the Church Militant meant, and [she was] admonished to believe and hold the article Unam Sanctam Ecclesiam, etc., and to submit to the Church Militant, She answered: I believe in the Church on earth; but for my deeds and words, as I have previously said, I refer the whole matter to God, Who caused me to do what I have done.

She said also that she submits to God her Creator, Who caused her to do what she did; and refers it to Him in His own Person.

Asked if she means that she has no judge on earth, and our Holy Father the Pope is not her judge,

She replied: I will tell you nothing else. I have a good Master, Our Lord, in Whom I trust for everything, and not in any other.

She was told that if she did not wish to believe in the Church and in the article Ecclesiam Sanctam Catholicam, she would be a heretic to uphold [her views], and that she would be punished by other judges who would sentence her to be burned.

She answered: I will tell you nothing else. And [even] if I saw the fire, I should tell you what I have told you, and nothing else.

Questioned as to whether, if the General Council, that is to say our Holy Father, the Cardinals [and the rest] were here, she would be willing to submit,

She answered: You will drag nothing else from me.

Asked if she is willing to submit to our Holy Father the Pope,

She said: Bring me to him, and I shall answer him.

A lesson from Catholic history that there can be bad bishops, and as Saint Thomas said, "we ought to obey God rather than man." (Summa Theologica Ia IIae, q.96, a.4) Denying the Supremacy of the Pope is, however, not an option, as Saint Thomas also taught.  To do so, as I have posted previously, would mean to be guilty of both heresy and schism, which are mortal sins worse than murder, adultery, or the sodomy of young children, and to be in heresy and/or schism is to be in a state of excommunication, which is to sever oneself from the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, and to die outside of Christ is to lose all hope of Heaven, which means Hell for all Eternity.

I believe in a literal Hell, as a place of eternal, endless anguish and despair. I believe that Christ died on the Cross for the eternal salvation of those who would believe and accept (without falling away) His priceless sacrifice. I have read that at Fatima when our Blessed Mother appeared that she showed the children "souls by the thousands falling into Hell with great anguish..."

What a horrible thought! Yet, in spite of the public revelation in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and Magisterial Teaching, and private revelations such as at Fatima, many Catholics do not believe in either Hell or Purgatory! Many believe that the Catholic Church is a giant "social works" organization. During my first RCIA program (a fully modernist, but all too typical one), I was told by a woman who also worked in Catholic (sic) ministry at a local parish, "The most important thing is Community," "You don't have to believe everything that the Church teaches, like contraception," and "We're all struggling as to what to believe."

Stop apologizing for the Inquisition! In my opinion, at the Final Judgment, I believe that the Catholic Inquisitions will be judged as being among the most righteous and holy institutions in the history of the Catholic Church. Most Inquisitors focused on the Salvation of people's souls, and I have no doubt that there are people in Heaven (or on their way there) who would have gone to Hell forever, except by the Grace of the Inquisition. For me, at this very moment I would rather be taken chained and shackled to the scaffold to be burned alive than lose my eternal salvation.  As I posted earlier, being burned at the stake was largely a painless form of death lasting at most a minute or two (when things were done right), unlike the Native American Indians who "slow roasted" Catholic missionaries for hours.

In our time, we have religious freedom, a "gift" from the deists of the Enlightenment.  In the end, though, our deep religious tolerance may not be a good thing. In giving people the absolute freedom to decide what they do or do not believe, we may have given them the freedom to "think and feel" their way straight into Hell, forever. In our age of complete relativism where there are "no" absolute truths, many, if not most, churchmen have denied the Perfection of the One and Triune God.

Fortunately, for those alive at the time, the world of medieval Catholic Europe operated under a set of much different circumstances. They did what they felt was right in the eyes of God. They were not "sinners" and did not necessarily use "poor judgment". Ultimately, Christ will judge all people, including those of the Inquisition. Catholics should not feel "embarrassed" by that outcome. I am not.

We will all die someday, and I fully and firmly believe that God will judge everyone to ultimately spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell. From the perspective of an obstinate heretic who was taken to the scaffold to be executed but who recanted before dying, the Inquisition may have ultimately been a good thing, assuming, of course, that the person went to Heaven who would have otherwise gone to Hell, except for the grace of the Inquisition. Of course, only the One and Triune God knows for sure.

If you think that the Inquisition was evil or misguided, just consider the state of those countries today where the Inquisitions were the most active – Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Nearly everyone in those countries is Catholic, and consequently, all three of those nations have, at least until recently, the most restrictive abortion laws in the world.  And unless you believe that abortion is a form of "angel making," you must acknowledge it as being the most despicable and vile act in all of human history, for not only does abortion kill the unborn body but excludes the soul of that unborn child from Heaven, for all Eternity. The One and Triune God is a Perfect Being, and in the end, He will not be mocked.

Over the course of six hundred years, the Catholic Inquisitions sent between forty to sixty thousand individuals to the scaffold to be burned by the secular authorities. This is less than half the number of abortions done in the United States every month.