The strength and the weakness of the Catholic Church is her unshakable belief that she is the ONLY repositor of Truth; since it is the right of truth to eliminate error, it follows that it is her duty to eliminate anything which is not consonant with Truth, namely with HER truth.
Because there cannot be two truths, any truth which is not hers are ipso facto errors. Because truth has the right to eliminate error, it is the duty of the Catholic Church to oppose and annihilate the latter.
That means that she is empowered to use any means, persuasion if possible but force if necessary, to prevent error from opposing truth; that is to oppose her Truth.
Her logic is faultlessly uncompromising, hence her dogmatism, both theological and operational. These have not been confined to abstractions, moral issues, or eschatological speculations. They have trespassed into the fields of concrete policies and have permeated her conduct from the beginning.
As soon as Constantine gave official recognition as a religion, she started to harass both Christians and non-Christians, who were not consonant with her. Her harassment of those not conforming with her commenced as early as the Fourth Century AD.
Such behaviour became a tradition. It lasted and progressed for more than a thousand years. The apex of her intolerance eventually became epitomized by the Inquisition. The latter, in the Spanish Inquisition, which terrorized the whole of Europe for more than five centuries.
Her claims of being the ONLY holder of truth, the fountain-spring of her historic intolerance, has never been revoked by her. She has maintained it with ever increasing resolution and ferocity until our own days. All her past actions bespeak of the constancy of such immutable intolerance. Since the Fourth Century AD her conduct has been patterned on nothing else.
The immutability of her resolve to compel everything and everybody to accept her belief, is compounded by her other belief that it is her duty to save the souls of ALL CHRISTIANS. A charge which culminated with the other belief, extension of such Catholic salvation to all mankind.
Hers is not a sporadic theological caprice of overzealous individuals. The Church has made it an official policy and objective of her own since the earliest times.
Pope Innocent gave precise instructions to all Inquisitors to enforce such regulations throughout Europe. Eventually it was made Statute Law. The regular clergy proved reluctant, so the Popes turned to the most fanatical, intolerant and narrow-minded section of the Church structure, the sundry monastic orders.
The two which excelled in their infamous task were the Dominicans and the Franciscans. Armed with practically unlimited power from the Popes, these Inquisitors swarmed all over Europe like theological hornets, setting up tribunals wherever they appeared.
Soon individuals, communities, nations, and indeed, the very hierarchy trembled at the mere mention of their names. Wherever they came, denunciations, accusations, treachery, perjury, torture, woe and death resulted.
The hooded Inquisitors did not content themselves with establishing their court in the sundry lands of Europe. Pope Gregory IX appointed a Dominican Grand Inquisitor for the whole of Armenia and Russia. Pope Urban VI ordered the General of the Dominicans to appoint Inquisitors for Armenia, Greece and Tartary (China).
Pope Nicholas IV asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to create Inquisitors from the mendicant friars in his land. Pope Gregory XI granted authority to the Franciscan Provincial in the Holy Land to act as Chief Inquisitor in Syria, Palestine and even Egypt.
When an Inquisitor arrived everybody was commanded, in obedience to the Pope and to Mother Church, to disclose the name of anyone suspected of the slightest deviation from the Faith. The Inquisitors issued a compelling threat and a promise. A denouncer would get an indulgence of three years. Those avoiding their duty would be excommunicated.
Some denunciations were factual but many were concocted by vengeance, spite or jealousy. Those denounced, even on the flimsiest accusation or mere suspicion, would be arrested and flung directly into prison.
This usually was a common dungeon. Cold and damp, it lacked light or sanitation, and contained cut-throats, thieves and the like. Among these the friars would plant spies to induce the accused, by pretended friendship, threats, or other methods, to admit his guilt.
If this first step proved insufficient, the suspected heretic would be chained with heavy irons and left to starve in a dark, foul hole called the durus carcer"cruel prison." The accused was then brought before the inquisitorial tribunal composed of friars. If he asked the names of his accusers, he was told that only his judges had the right to know their names. He had no such right.
He was asked to confess to his guilt. If he pleaded innocence, he would be sent back to prison. On a second or third appearance before the Court, if he persisted he was put to torture. The whole purpose of his trial, of course, was to force a confession of heresy.
Torture was inflicted without solid proof of guilt. Two complainers or even one single accuser was sufficient for subjection to the agonies of torture, even if the accused man had, until then, been of unblemished character, pristine honesty and genuine piety.
The methods, kinds and degrees of torture were endless. The three basic ones employed were hoisting the man to the ceiling by his hands tied behind his back, breaking him on the rack, or greasing his feet and thrusting them into the fire.
If, following all the exquisite devices of torture, the heretic refused to recant or to admit his guilt, then the Inquisitors would pass capital sentence for heresy. To complete the macabre farce, the Holy Inquisitors would ask these same temporal powers, in the name of the Church, not to kill the poor accused. This formality was a mere legalistic device to make the Church appear innocent of the blood which was about to be spilledor rather, burned.
The civil authorities could not heed this hypocritical plea, however, lest the Holy Inquisition fall upon them. Refusal to burn the heretic would have placed the temporal authorities themselves on trial for their lives. For heresy, of course!
Soon no one was safe from potential arrest. The spying, denunciation, and hunting down of heretics reached cleric or lay, men or women, noble or common. No one was immune from the terrorizing omnipresence of the Holy Inquisition.
This reign of Catholic terror lasted for centuries. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and yes, even children were murdered...burned alive at the stake. Simply because they dared to disagree with the Holy Catholic Church or with her Popes.
This Vatican terror officially ended less than two hundred years ago. As recently as 1762 a Protestant pastor was condemned to death in France. Why? Simply because he was a Protestant! By whom? By the Catholic Church! Yes, by that same church which now pretends to love her "dear separated brethren."
Indeed, in Europe torture was still enforced by all the Tribunals of the Holy Inquisition until the last century, the Pope being forced to abolish it only in 1816.
It was Napoleon, who entered Madrid in 1808, who was to abolish the Inquisition. When the Spanish Parliament in 1813 declared it incompatible with the Constitution, the Vatican protested. Super-Catholic Ferdinand VII restored it in 1814, with the full approval of the Church. The Holy Inquisition was finally suppressed by the Liberals in July, 1834.
The Vatican protested for decades, because Spain had suppressed the Inquisition. Why? Because the Catholic Church was persuaded, as in the past, that she had the right to IMPOSE her truth.
The belief, that it is still her duty to do so, is as alive today. It will remain so in the near and in the distant future.
The apologists of the Church assured the contemporary world that the horrors of the Inquisition will never be repeated, ever again. But the Catholic State of Croatia proved them wrong. The attempted coup of Hungary, when Cardinal Mindszenty tried to set up a totalitarian Catholic State, proved them wrong. The Catholic terrorism of Vietnam proved them wrong. The Catholic terrorism of Catholic Ireland proved them wrong.
The Catholic Church's sudden espousing of Ecumenism was a classic device to make people forget that her basic spirit of intolerance is still within her.
It must be remembered that if the Inquisition was banned, against her will, only during the middle of the last century, the Holy Office, its inspirer and instrument was "abolished" only a few years ago. In fact, that it is operating, disguised under a specious name, in the silent walls of the Vatican of today.
One of its main current tasks is to make sure that the Croatian Holocaust and the Catholic Dictatorship of Vietnam are forgotten, and become a mere footnote of remote history.
It has already partially succeeded. Since the contemporary world at large know very little about the true nature and the background religious intrigues of these two most reprehensible episodes of Catholic fanaticism.
And this to such a degree that, unlike Hitler's and Stalin's horrific concentration camps, the Croatian ones and the Buddhists self-immolation in Vietnam, as a protest against the Vatican's religious terroristic interference, have already become taboos to the mass media of the world.
A dangerous triumph of contemporary Catholic pressure and its ecumenical and political associates. Forgetfulness and, even more, ignorance are dangerous twin brothers in our turbulent world. Since they are the breeders of unscrupulous ideological and ecclesiastical intrigues, and thus of potential new Croatias and new Vietnams.
The basic Catholic claims have never changed one single iota. The Catholic Church's insistence about her own uniqueness has remained as granitically firm now, as it has always been. These are the same claims which produced the Inquisition, Croatia and the Catholic Dictatorship of Vietnam.
If the past be an indication of the shape of things to come then, given the right opportunities and appropriate political climate, New Inquisitions, New Croatias and New Vietnams will be created again and again. When, where and how, only the future will tell.
1. Sacred Congregation of the Faith, responsible against theological errors and heresies.[Back]
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