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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 21 Nov 2001

Spanish Inquisition QUESTION from Joseph Molyneux July 9, 2000 Dear John Paul:
I read in one of your responses listed on this site that the Spanish Inquisition was not done under the approval of the Church. From the research I have done, this statement is unequivocally incorrect. Without even commenting on resources which indicate otherwise, why would this pope apoligize for the Inquistion just this year(and there were two inquistions, not just the Spanish Inquistion), if it were not an action attributed to the Church. One does not apoligize for something one did not do.
Second, certainly those clerics who did participate in torture and the Spanish Inquistion were representatatives of the Church. Cetainly the many popes reigning at the time (and there were several since the Spanish Inquistion spanned many years) were aware of the practices of torture and executions and did nothing to stop it. This failure to act implies a moral complicity in the crime (as apparently Pope John Paul II assumed in making an apology).
Third, there are many references in historical documents (both church and non-church) which clearly make reference to the fact that popes condoned the inquistions.
Therefore, how is it that you make the statement that the Spanish Inquisition was not perpetrated with the approval of the Pope?
thank You
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on September 7, 2000 Dear Dr. Molyneux:
Well you have been reading false histories.
The Spanish Inquisition was ORIGINALLY approved by the Pope but that approval was revoked when the Pope saw that the Spanish Crown was using it as it was in such brutality for political reasons. The Spanish Inquisition was then condemned by the Pope, but it was too late to stop it.
As for the Pope's apology, the apology DID NOT, I repeat, DID NOT apology for ANYTHING the CHURCH did, because the CHURCH has done nothing wrong.
He apologized for the individual Catholics who sinned. This was no different that a father, representing his family, apologizing on behalf of his son who shoplifted. The FAMILY did not commit the sin, the boy did, but the FAMILY make the public apology.
Yes, there were some clerics involved in bad things during the Inquisition. No, the Church is NOT responsible for the sins of its members. People are responsible for their own sins. The Church considers that sinful behavior as SIN. It was in VIOLATION of the Church teaching.
To accuse the Church for the sins of its members, even it priests would be like accusing the City of New York for sinning when the Mayor runs a stop sign. The Mayor, not the city, is responsible for running the stop sign.
People sin. So What? We are all sinners. The Church considered the bad behavior as sin, as a violation of its teaching, and thus is not culpable for those person's sin.
But you seem to imply that the Inquisition was something bad! It was not.
The Spanish Inquisition was bad, the Inquisition conducted by the Church was done mostly with fairness and justice. In fact the people of the day PREFERRED the Inquisition Courts to the State Courts.
Yes, some people, were put to death, but it was NOT the Church who did that. The penalty for heresy is excommunication, not death.
You have to understand that the State considered heresy a threat to national security, and in many ways it was a threat to national security and to public peace. Thus the STATE not the Church, administered the death penalty to those in heresy since heresy was considered a capital crime (one of among about 150 other crimes that were given the death penalty).
Now did some cleric conspire with the State to convict a person of heresy to put them to death? Yes. The bishop involved in the trial of Joan of Arc conspired in such a way. Was it the CHURCH conspiring? No. It was the sins of a man conspiring.
But overall, the non-Spanish Inquisitions were not a bad thing. In fact we still have in existence the OFFICIAL CHURCH rules on how an investigator was to conduct his investigation and trial. That handbook reveals great care in ensuring justice, due process, and fairness.
But as to the Spanish Inquisition, you are reading bigoted histories. The Pope revoked his approval of the Spanish Inquisition and condemned it.
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