Jesus christ on the horrors of the inquisition
RACHEL Continuing our broadcast here in Jerusalem, we’re still receiving protests from listeners and even some threats. Several fundamentalists have stated that if Jesus Christ keeps talking this way, they will take reprisals against our radio station.
JESUS And why are the hearts of these listeners so hard, Rachel?
RACHEL You experienced harsh intolerance against yourself. Intolerance and religion have gone hand in hand for a long time. As proof of that, I’ve brought along a little recording. I’d like you to listen to it to start off our program.
JESUS Yes, let me hear it.
NARRATOR They tied them by their hands and feet, and they stretched them until their bones broke. They made them sit on chairs with needle-sharp points sticking up, and they poured boiling water down their throats and in their ears …
INQUISITOR Confess, accursed witch, confess that you had carnal relations with the devil!
NARRATOR They drove awls into their bodies, they cut off their tongues and their breasts, they broke their hands, they raped them in front of their spouses and children… And afterwards they burned them at the stake.
JESUS That’s enough. Why are you making me listen to something so outrageous?
RACHEL Because … because those torturers were your own representatives.
JESUS Mine? What are you talking about, Rachel?
RACHEL What you just heard is what was happening in the tribunals of the Holy Inquisition.
JESUS How can you call such a thing “holy”?
RACHEL That’s what they called it, holy. I have the facts. Do you want to hear them?
JESUS Tell me, even if it hurts.
RACHEL Many scholars agree that the Inquisition was the most shameful page in the church’s history. It was established one thousand years ago by Pope Innocent III for the purpose of pursuing heretics. He’s the same Pope who imposed the “sacrament” of confession. The Popes who came later created the tribunals, authorized the most horrendous tortures, and approved the massive extermination of women in all the Christian lands, accusing them of being witches.
JESUS And who were those daughters of God that they were calling witches?
RACHEL Most of them were poor women, housewives, midwives, … There were also some very wise women, who knew much about the secrets of nature. People claimed that they were possessed, and they tortured them to drive the devil out of their bodies.
JESUS And the real devils were those same torturers…
RACHEL The chronicles recount that the accused woman never knew who was actually accusing her, or what they were accusing her of. If she denied the charges, the tortures were made crueler still. If out of fear she admitted to being possessed, she was done the favor of being strangled to death before being thrown into the fire. They also tortured and killed men, country folk, villagers… The families of the victims had to turn all their property over to the priests. And all that was done in your name, Jesus Christ!
JESUS Not in my name! Tell me, Rachel, how long was that abomination going on?
RACHEL It lasted for centuries.
JESUS And did many of God’s daughters die at the hands of those devils?
RACHEL Some historians speak of hundreds of thousands, others of millions…
JESUS I’ll tell you God’s honest truth that was the hour of the power of darkness.
RACHEL Well, Pope John Paul II has already asked for pardon for the errors committed by the Inquisition.
JESUS Errors? Pardon for millions of women tortured and burned alive? That crime can’t be erased, not even with fuller’s lye.
RACHEL You mean you wouldn’t pardon them yourself?
JESUS That needs to be ripped out by the roots.
RACHEL What needs to be ripped out?
JESUS The tree of faith in the devil. That tree has produced all the horrible, rotten fruit you’ve just told me about. It needs to be ripped out by the roots, completely. They need to state clearly that the devil never existed, and that they themselves were the real devils. Only then will they be forgiven.
RACHEL From Jerusalem, this is Rachel Perez, Emisoras Latinas.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
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Investigating and punishing heresies
“Inquisition” means investigation. The Inquisition investigated, combated and punished heresies in the church. It lasted centuries and had different characteristics at different times and in different countries, although the common denominator was always intolerance and cruelty. The Inquisition began in the Middle Ages (1184) in Languedoc in southern France. Its original aim was to combat the heresy of the Cathars (from the Greek “katharoi”, the “pure ones”), who were also called Albigensians; this was the first organized heresy to defy the Roman church in a specific region.
In the Lateran Council (1215), which was convoked and presided over by Pope Innocent III, the main topic of discussion was the problem of the heretics who at that time did not accept the official doctrines dictated by the Pope. The Council issued a decree against the heretics that began thus: We excommunicate and censure every sort of heresy which militates against the holy, orthodox, catholic faith that we have just expounded. We condemn all heretics, by whatever name they are known, because even though they may appear different from one another in the light of day, they are all united in their clandestine activity; pride renders them all alike.
In 1249 the Inquisition was set up in Aragon, Spain. With the unification of Aragon and Castille, the Spanish Inquisition was established in 1478, and it would last until 1821, always under the control of the Spanish monarchy. From Spain the Inquisition spread to the Spanish colonies in America. The Portuguese Inquisition lasted almost as long as the Spanish, from 1536 to 1821. The Roman Inquisition, directed by the papacy, lasted from 1542 to 1965, well into the 20th century.
Being a heretic meant being a traitor
After Christianity became the state religion in the 4th century with the “conversion” of the Roman emperor Constantine, heretics (that is, anyone dissenting from the official Christian doctrine, which in that century began to be the doctrine of the Popes) were considered traitors and enemies of the state: they were “political” criminals.
In the 12th century the Cathars (or Albigensians) called the institution of the papacy into question and disparaged its power. They said the Pope was “the Antichrist” and the church of Rome was “the whore of Babylon”, thus evoking the image of the “great whore” in the Apocalypse. Condemning the opulence and the power of the Roman papacy, the Cathars were themselves very ascetical: they ate no meat and did not marry. They refused to use arms and rejected altars, saints, and devotion to images and relics.
Pope Lucius III (1181-85) decided to use military might to do away with the Cathars. He issued the bull “Ad Abolendam”, which required bishops to extirpate the heresy and gave them power to judge and condemn all heretics in their dioceses. This papal provision was the origin of the “Holy” Inquisition and the “Holy” Office. In this first stage the Inquisition was directly dependent on the bishops. In 1231 Pope Gregory IX established the pontifical Inquisition, which answered directly to the Pope and was administered by the Dominicans. In 1252 Pope Innocent IV authorized the use of torture to obtain the confessions of those accused.
Eradicating Jews and Protestants
The Spanish Inquisition functioned for more than 300 years. It was created in 1478 by a papal bull to combat the Judaizing practices of those Spanish Jews who were forced to become Christians. In the 15th and 16th centuries the Inquisition fought against Lutherans and witches, and in the 17th and 18th centuries against Masons and censured books. In 1559 the Roman Inquisition created the Index of Prohibited Books, a list of publications and authors that it was forbidden for Catholics to read, under pain of excommunication. For the books not totally forbidden by the Inquisition, the Index specified the chapters, pages or lines that should be censured (removed or blotted out).
For the Spanish Inquisition any girl over the age of twelve and any boy over the age of fourteen could be guilty of heresy. Heretics and persons who converted to Catholicism to avoid persecution were the principal objects of the inquiries and persecutions. The first Grand Inquisitor of Spain was the Dominican priest Tomás de Torquemada, confessor of Queen Isabel “the Catholic”, who presided over numerous inquisitorial processes and was responsible for the torching of Jewish and Arab libraries. The name “Torquemada” became part of the Spanish language, as an alias for intolerant fanatics. It is calculated that during Torquemada’s term of office more than ten thousands persons were burned to death, another 27 thousand were tortured, and some 114 thousand were sentenced for their “crimes”.
After the conquest of the Americas tribunals of the Inquisition were installed in Mexico City, Lima (Peru) and Cartagena (Colombia). The Lima tribunal had jurisdiction over Peru, Panama, Quito, Cuzco, Rio de la Plata, Tucuman, Concepcion and Santiago de Chile. The Mexico tribunal exercised jurisdiction over all of Central America. In 1573 the Lima tribunal issued its first solemn proclamation, accusing the Frenchman Mateo Salado of being a Lutheran and ordering that he be burned alive.
One verdict, dictated by a 16th century inquisitor against Mariana de Carvajal, resident of Mexico, reads as follows: I sentence her to be beaten with a club until she dies a natural death, and then that she be burned in hot flames until her body is converted into ashes and there remains of her not the least memory. This woman was condemned for her Judaizing tendencies. The sin of “sodomy” was one of the most fiercely persecuted by the tribunals of the Inquisition in Latin America.
The elimination of the Inquisition was a demand of all the protagonists of the Latin American independence struggles. The last person condemned to death by the Spanish Inquisition was a school teacher accused of being a deist. He was denounced because he did not take his students to mass and did not pray the Hail Mary in his school. He was hanged in 1826 in Valencia. His case had repercussion throughout Europe and finally put an end to that perverse institution in Spain.
The trials of the Inquisition
Whenever the inquisitors arrived in a town they would issue two edicts. The “edict of faith” obliged the inhabitants, under pain of excommunication, to denounce all heretics and their accomplices, while the “edict of grace” granted any heretics who were denounced a grace period of 15 to 30 days to confess their guilt without having their properties confiscated or being sentenced to death or to life in prison. This procedure provoked many people to inform on others, especially since they were protected by anonymity and the use of self-incrimination. The people denounced were never told of what they were being accused. The Holy Office made use of secret indictments in its trials to avoid reprisals, but these sowed great fear among the people and could turn any citizen into an informer and a collaborator of the tribunal.
The accused persons were imprisoned and remained incommunicado. Their properties were confiscated to finance the costs of the imprisonment and the trial. The trial itself consisted in a series of hearings in which the informers and the accused could be heard. The accused persons could have “defense” lawyers, but these did not really defend them; rather, they advised them to recognize their faults and confess their guilt. In order to obtain confessions, people were starved, tortured, or kept for long periods in prison. At first the church was opposed to torture, but in 1252 Pope Innocent IV authorized it, on the condition that the prisoners not be mutilated or killed by the torture. The tortures practiced by the tribunals of the Inquisition for centuries were indescribably cruel.
Only rarely did the trials end with the accused persons found innocent; most often they were found guilty. If they were found innocent, they were still fined and reprimanded, and they had to put one a distinctive robe so that everyone would know that they had passed through the tribunal. Those found guilty were executed. If they repented of their heresy and they were poor, they were hanged. Those of higher social state had their throats cut. If they did not repent they were burned alive. The executions took place during elaborate rituals called “autos de fé”, the first of which was held in Spain in 1845.
One case, one example, one horror
The exhaustive study of Henry Charles Lea, History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages, tells of a case that occurred in Spain in the 16th century, after the Jews living in Spanish territory began to be persecuted.
A pregnant woman named Elvira del Campo was arrested by the Inquisition on the suspicion that she was Jewish. While in prison she gave birth to a baby boy. One year later she was taken before the tribunal of the Inquisition in Toledo. Two workers who were renting rooms in her house came forth as witnesses and said that Elvira did not eat pork and that on Saturdays she put on clean underwear. For having reported this conduct which made the woman suspect of practicing Judaism, the two witnesses were rewarded with three years of indulgences for their sins.
Under interrogation Elvira stated that she was Christian, and she said her husband and her father were as well. However, she said, her mother had Jewish ancestors. Elvira told the tribunal that she had not eaten pork since she was a little girl because it made her nauseous and that her mother had taught her to change her underwear every Saturday, a habit which she had never considered religiously significant. The tribunal threatened to torture here if she did not confess to being a Jew. Since she refused to do so, she was stripped naked. Her hands were tied with cords until the bones were broken, and with her hands still tied she was then lashed onto a table with sharp edges. In the course of the torture she confessed to breaking laws, but since she could not give details about which laws she had broken, she was subjected to water torture: her nose was blocked, and liters of water were poured down her throat through a funnel. Once her stomach was swollen, they beat her on it. Many victims subjected to this kind of torture would burst open or die from drowning. But Elvira did not die. After four days the torture was suspended, and she was shut up in a cell, where she finally confessed to being a Jew and pled for clemency. The clemency consisted in her not being killed, but all her property was confiscated and she was sentenced to three years in jail. After six months she was set free – completely mad.
The Roman Inquisition
The Roman Inquisition, sometimes called the Congregation of the Holy Office, was created by Paul Paul III in 1542, in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, to examine the doctrinal errors that were spreading through Europe and to inflict severe punishment on their propagators.
In 1600 the Holy Office judged, condemned and burned alive the Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno for his novel ideas. In 1633 the scientific genius Galileo Galilei was tried and condemned for stating that the earth revolved around the sun, not the reverse. The Inquisition considered this theory to be contrary to the sacred scriptures. Fearful of being tortured, Galileo, who was then 70 years old, disavowed his theory and denied it before the Roman tribunal.
It was not until 1965 that Pope Paul VI reorganized the Holy Office and renamed it the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
An intolerant world
For centuries religious wars and the Inquisition smothered Europe with their intolerance and brutality. The Protestants also persecuted all the persons they considered heretics. In 1553 in Geneva a Calvinist tribunal, at the instigation of Calvin himself, burned at the stake Miguel Servet, the Spanish physician, theologian, and philosopher who discovered the circulation of the blood between the heart and the lungs. Contradicting both Catholics and Protestants, Servet denied the doctrine of original sin and the dogma of the Holy Trinity, and he rejected the baptism of children. Those who keep alive the memory of this humanist martyr say that he always believed that everything that can be thought can also be spoken, discussed and done.
In 1536, before England separated from Rome and the Anglican Church was born, the British linguist and Catholic priest William Tyndale was strangled and then burned at the stake in Belgium, with the complicity of the King of England, Henry VIII. He had been accused of heresy for translating the Bible into English, thus reducing the importance of the Vulgate version, which was the official Latin translation imposed by Rome. Tyndale’s last words were these: Lord, open the eyes of the King of England! Just three years later, as a result of the Anglican schism, his translation of the Bible became official in all of England.
The “autos de fé”: pure spectacle
The “autos de fé” were among the most important public manifestations of the Inquisition’s power of intimidation. Both those acquitted and those condemned by the inquisitorial tribunals had to participate in these ceremonies, which sought to throw a solemn aura over the accused persons’ return to the fold or over their death, as the case might be. Held in public plazas and attended by huge crowds, the autos de fé were staged in a spectacular, dramatic fashion. The church hierarchs employed every possible device to instill fear in the spectators, respect for authority, morbid curiosity, repentance, repudiation of the heretics, and contempt for them.
The condemned persons would be taken at dawn from the prison of the Inquisition to the chapel of the Holy Office, and from there a procession would go forth, led by a green cross, symbol of the Inquisition. Those who had repented of their heresies went first, carrying lighted candles, and they were followed by Dominican friars, who for centuries were the ones in charge of the tribunals of the Inquisition. Next in the entourage came the persons condemned to death, wearing on their heads a paper cone painted with infernal symbols. Following these who were going to die at the stake or on the scaffold were the so-called “relatives of the Inquisition”, who are described in some texts as “the eyes and ears” of the Holy Office. The end of the procession was brought up by mounted lancers and the repres