- ROME -- The Vatican sought
to play down the terrors of the Inquisition yesterday, claiming that far
fewer people were tortured and executed for heresy than was popularly believed.
- The reassessment by Church historians was seized on by
the Pope to qualify the apology he made for the Inquisition during the
Church's millennium celebrations.
- The research emerged from a conference of scholars convened
in 1998 to help the Pope assess the impact of the Inquisition, which often
used brutal methods to suppress alleged witchcraft and doctrinal unorthodoxy.
- Church officials said that statistics and other data
demolished myths about the Inquisition, including that torture and executions
were commonly used.
- "For the first time we studied the Inquisition in
its entirety, from its beginnings to the 19th century," said Agostino
Borromeo, a professor of history of Catholic and other Christian confessions
at Rome's Sapienza University. Prof Borromeo said that while there were
some 125,000 trials of suspected heretics in Spain, research found that
about one per cent of the defendants were executed, far fewer than commonly
believed. Many of the burnings at the stake were carried out by civil rather
than religious tribunals.
- Yesterday, the Pope reiterated his mea culpa but stressed
that actions which had "disfigured the face of the Church" had
to be viewed in their historical context.
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;sessionid=
- From Jay Nelson
- This is such a piece of historical horse hockey that
it is hard to take seriously.
- In the first place, there was no widespread witchcraft
persecution in Spain. Hard to believe, but the Spanish Inquisition went
mainly after crypto-Jews and Lutherans. The reason? So many people came
forward to confess that the authorities could not cope with it and decided
it was all mass delusion! (The False Memory people would have been proud.)
Thus, no witchcraft persecution, and the brujas were free to come to the
New World, but that's another story...
- Secondly, the religious authorities rarely if ever, burnt
people on their own authority. They "relaxed" them to the secular
power who then carried out the sentence that the Inquisition commanded.
But it was no more the idea of the state than the tortures in Iraq were
the sole idea of the enlisted goons who carried them out.
- Thirdly, it's true that not all were burnt. But a person
could be held for life on the merest whiff of heresy, all lands confiscated
and even their bones exhumed and burnt if the authorities felt like it.
Even those who were released from the Inquisition's jails usually had to
perform public penance for years while wearing a yellow identifying garment
called a "sanbenito" -- the inspiration, BTW, for the yellow
stars of David the Nazis made the Jew wear.
- The Inquisition was the most diabolical institution ever
created. For the Pope to in any way to minimize its horrors should be as
unthinkable as the head of Germany defending the Holocaust in its "historical
context". If he did, he would be called a Nazi. What, then, should
the Holy Father be called?