The Unholy Inquisition is a monstrous blot on our history, far worse than Hitler or Stalin. Its subtle but dire effects can still be felt in the cultures of the Christianised countries of the world.
In some parts of what the Roman Catholic Church considered to be its empire or fiefdom, it seems that around the later 1200’s they felt they were losing control. Pope Gregory 9th appointed the Dominicans as inquisitors and ordered them to eradicate heresy everywhere. It is interesting to note that one root of the word heresy is from Hera, the wife of Zeus. Zeus was the Greek god of war - a role model for Jehovah – but his wife Hera had followers too who had different ideas. And they were called Heretics!
In and around 1308 AD in Southern France, the Cathars had different ideas too about God and worship and it seems the Catholic Church were seriously frightened they were LOSING CONTROL. And losing control is not what the church was about so something had to be done. And it was. The Dominicans moved in and, after much inquisiting, torture, prison and burning at the stake, the Cathars were completely wiped out. Here is some background info:
Cathars and Catharism in the Languedoc
(Quoted from http://www.languedoc-france.info)
The Cathars were a religious group who appeared in Europe in the eleventh century, their origins something of a mystery. Records from the Roman Church mention them under various names and in various places, occasionaly throwing light on basic beliefs. The Roman Church debated with itself whether they were Christian heretics or whether they were not Christians at all. In the Languedoc, famous at the time for its high culture, tolerance and liberalism, Catharism took root and gained more and more adherents during the twelfth century. By the early thirteenth century it was probably the majority religion in the area, supported by the nobility as well as the common people. This was too much for the Roman Church, some of whose own priests had become Cathars. Worst of all, Cathars of the Languedoc refused to pay their tithes
The Pope, Innocent (Guilty?)III, called a formal crusade, appointing a series of leaders to head his (un)holy army. There followed over forty years of war against the indigenous population. In 1233 the next pope, Gregory IX, charged the Dominican Inquisition with the final solution: the absolute extirpation of the Cathars. Soon the Franciscans would join in too, but it is St Dominic and his followers who have left the legacy of hatred that endures into the third millennium. During this period some 500,000 Languedoc men women and children were massacred; the Counts of Toulouse and their vassels were dispossessed and humiliated, and their lands annexed to France. Educated and tolerant Languedoc rulers were replaced by relative barbarians; the Dominican Order was founded and the Inquisition was established to wipe out the last vestiges of resistance; persecutions of Languedoc Jews and other minorities were initiated; the high culture of the Troubadours was lost; lay learning was discouraged; tithes were enforced; the Languedoc started its economic decline, and the language of the area, Occitan, started its descent from one of the foremost languages in Europe to a regional dialect.
At the end of the extirpation of the Cathars, the Church had convincing proof that a sustained campaign of genocide can work. It also had the precedent of an internal Crusade within Christendom, and the machinery of the first modern police state. This crusade was one of the greatest disasters ever to befall Europe. Catharism is often said to have been completely eradicated by the end of the fourteenth century. Yet there are more than a few vestiges even today, apart from the enduring memory of their martydom and the ruins of the famous "Cathar castles". There are even Cathars alive today, or at least people claiming to be modern Cathars.
It apparently became recognised that joining the Inquisition could be a good career move for a priest and for a certain Father Jacques Fournier, that turned out to be true . He was the primary inquisitor in the Cathar village of Montaillou and after ‘successfully’ trying 98 cases of ‘heresy’ he became a cardinal and eventually Pope Benedict 12th. His approach to those who didn’t see it his way was ‘convert or die’. This demand was backed up by monstrous instruments of torture and the ultimate of burning at the stake. The people who were mostly accused of witchcraft were the healers who were mainly women and who used herbs and folk remedies of their time. These were all deemed satanic and a reason for accusation of all sorts of things.
The Inquision worked by ignoring all rules of natural justice. Guilt was assumed from the start. The accused had no right to see the evidence against them, or their accusers. They were not even told what the charges were against them. They had no right to legal counsel, and if exceptionally they were allowed a legal representative then the representative risked being arrested for heresy as well.
People were charged on the say-so of hostile neighbours, known enemies and professional informers who were paid on commission. False accusations, if exposed, were excused if they were the result of "zeal for the Faith". Guilty verdicts were assured - especially since, in addition to their punishment, half of a guilty person's property was seized by the Church. (The Dominicans soon hit on the idea of digging up and trying dead people, so that they could retrospectively seize their property).
Techniques of obtaining confessions included threats of procedures against other family members, promises of leniency in exchange for a confession, trick questions, sleep deprivation, indefinite imprisonment in a cold dark cell on a diet of bread and water, and of course a wide range of even more ghastly techniques. Torture was a favourite method of extracting confessions for offences both real and fabricated. Its use was explicitly sanctioned by Pope Innocent (Guilty)IV in 1252 in his bull ad extirpanda. Inquisitors and their assistants were permitted to absolve one another for applying torture. Instruments of torture, like crusaders' weapons, were routinely blessed with holy water.
Torture was applied liberally to obtain whatever confessions were required, and sometimes just to punish people that the Church authorities did not like. Together, these techniques were responsible for the first police state in Europe, where the only thoughts and actions permitted were those approved of by the Roman Church, where no-one could be trusted, and where duty to the totalitarian authority took precedence over all other duties, whether those duties were to one's chosen sovereign, family, friends, beliefs, conscience, or even to the truth.
Catholics, this is the history of your religion. Is this the doings of a God you really want to worship? Catholic ladies – this is the time before your church even granted you a soul, so you were a kind of non-person!
The atmosphere that the Inquisition produced is similar that achieved by Stalin in his heyday so well portrayed by George Orwell in ‘1984’, and also of Hitler in the thirties as he built up Nazism and the Hitler youth. In all these cases such fear was produced that all trust broke down. Neighbours were incriminating neighbours, members of the same family were incriminating each other and even children were denouncing their own parents. What an incredible decimation of a society. Such incredible wickedness in the name of ‘God’.
The Inquisition went on to Spain – Iberia as it was then called. Up to this time, Christians, Moslems and Jews had lived side by side in a state of mutual tolerance and respect known as ‘convivensia’. This was too much for the Catholic Church and Pope Sixtus 4th sent the Inquisition to create years of horror and decimate that society. There was a pogrom against the Jews and again the demand – convert or die.
Next on the list was Venice which at that time was a Republic in its own right and which did not wish to be dominated by Rome. This was the time when Martin Luther and the Protestants were gaining power in northern Europe and the Catholic Church was again terrified of LOSING CONTROL! A certain Bishop Caraffa was dispatched, along with the usual small army of church mercenaries, to stamp out heresy. Apparently he was very upset by the University of Padua which was full of free-thinkers so he set out to change that. He was a true zealot and reputedly said ‘Even if my own father were a heretic, I would gather the wood to burn him’.
Well, you can’t get more extreme than that. Well - not if you’re a true bigot – I mean zealot.
When he became Pope Paul 4th – yes for him too it was a good career move – he set about stamping out the Jews. He issued a Papal Bull which overturned hundreds of years of tolerance and by 1557, Jews were forbidden to own any books except the Bible. Then 200 years after being driven out of Spain – and welcomed into multi cultural Venice, the Jews found themselves being driven out of Italy.
Mind you all was not milk and honey for Pope Paul 4th. It seems that when he died in 1559, Rome celebrated his death with considerable joy and partying as he was a truly hated man. Among the many acts he did to prevent human advancement, he created a long list of books which he deemed prohibited. And this list of forbidden books was not abolished by the Catholic Church until 1966!
In the late 1700’s, Napoleon was a serious enemy of the Inquisition and worked tirelessly to keep them out of his territory. When he was deposed they got back in to create more havoc and misery. In 1796 Spain was again terrorised by them. In 1858 they were in full swing in the papal states of Italy – and continued for four more decades. They created untold misery for almost six hundred years across the face of Europe, just to keep the power of the Catholic Church over the people. All of us who know anything about spiritual truth know that witchcraft, as represented by them, is a totally false idea. The people they deemed witches were, in the main, healers, folk doctors and herbalists. Witch originally meant ‘Wise Woman’. Perhaps one day its real meaning will be restored to popular knowledge. The church put back medical knowledge by an incalculable amount and brought untold misery and sickness and hardship by murdering the medical profession of time. Imagine the Church of England branding the National Health Service as evil and killing off all the doctors by public burning! Mind you, right now another fundamentalist power is trying to take away our freedom to treat ourselves with vitamins and herbs. It is the ‘Church Of Big Pharma’. Big powerful pharmaceutical companies are vying for legislation to prevent us buying health supplements and keeping ourselves well. It seems they benefit so much more if we are all sick and have to be on medication. I read an incredible statistic recently – The average American takes one medication a day and no less than 17% are on 3 medications per day.
It seems probable that the Inquisition were directly responsible for between nine and twelve million people who were tortured, burned, and/or imprisoned in appalling circumstances. God knows how many had their lives ruined and how many cultures suffered appalling decimation. A friend researched for me and found records dating back to 1234 when 8000 ‘Stedingers’ (not sure who they were) were burned and then 1239 when 180 were burned for witchcraft at Montwinmer in France on 29th of May, and then of Angela de la Barthe, burned at Toulouse in 1275.
The last in Europe would seem to be 100 people in Haeck, Germany between 1772 and 1779, 2 in Poland in 1793, several in South America in the 1800’s, 1 in Illinois in 1870 and 5 in Mexico in 1877. In the last century apparently one person was shot by a policeman in Uttneheim, Germany on suspicion of being a werewolf in 1925 and one killed for ‘sorcery’ in France as recently as 1977!
In Africa hundreds are killed on suspicion of witchcraft – right up to August 2000 – and who knows just how much of this still goes on.
The Inquisition is a terrible blot on our history. Hitler and Stalin, appalling as they were, were short term blips by comparison, though at least they didn’t pretend to be doing it for ‘god’. Let us try to see nothing like it ever happens again. GOD SAVE US FROM RELIGION.
I have criticised St Paul quite a bit so here is one piece he got right:
‘But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.’ Corinthians 15:13-16
YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES AND YES AGAIN!
Reference: ‘Adam & Evil: the God who hates sex, women and human bodies’ by The Heyeokah Guru. http://www.trafford.com/06-2701