Spiritual Warfare Forum: changing church teaching
changing church teaching QUESTION from steve September 24, 2001 Some of the past popes --innocent viii just to name one, allowed torture of heretics --now, the church says torture is intrinsically evil --and has apologized for the past behaviour of some of its leaders --were those popes knowingly doing wrong, or were they just mistaken?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on October 9, 2001 Dear Steve:
When you post a question, post it to ONE Forum. You are peppering more than one forum with these questions.
We cannot judge hundreds of years ago with the sensibilities of the 21st Century. While torture today is seen as an evil, it was not seen that way a 500 years ago. Torture was a common and accepted method of punishment and extraction of information.
We cannot fault the men of that time for believing and practicing things that were common and fully acceptible for those times.
500 years from now, medical doctors may consider us today are barbaric and evil for cutting people open with a knife in surgery. Are we really barbaric and evil or is this all we know. Is surgery by the knife the common and accepted practice of medice today? Are we intrinsically evil today? 500 years from now such techniques may be considered barbaric or even a form of evil.
I am pretty sure that 500 years from now history will record the 20th and 21st Centuries as evil for the use of capital punishment, and even the way that prisons are run today. These things may seem common and usual for us today, but 500 years from now people may see them as intrinsically evil. Are we evil? Not according to today's standards. (though some might argue with that, of course).
Practices of those days must be judged according to the times and the facts are that the torture allowed by the Church at times was mild compared to the practices of the state. In fact people PREFERRED to be tried in an Inquistition Court, for example, than in a State Court. The Inquisition Courts were more fair, just, and less brutal. (note: the abuses of the Spanish Inquisition were from the State and were condemned by the Pope at the time).
The Popes at those times were products of those times. In such matters the Church is not immune from the cultural practices of the times in which she lives.
None of these issues relate to the infallibility of the Pope or to the Holiness of the Church. These issues only show what we already know -- men are sinners, and cultures also perpetuate sinful practices. This is not news.
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