The inquisition….which never happened.

Most people in England have been raised to accept, in part or in full, an anti-Catholic prejudice that does not stand up to serious academic scrutiny. We might think of the widespread but slanted view of reformation history, in which the English are supposed to have chosen the protestant option with glee, when the reality is that it was enforced brutally by the crown under point of a sword and threat of bankruptcy.

Or we might think of how Catholicism is often upheld as being a “foreign” thing. “The Italian mission to the Irish” is the nonsense spouted..when it was of course English Catholicism, working in unity with Rome, that built our beautiful Saxon and Norman churches and Cathedrals, founded our greatest Universities and the Parliament that went on to persecute it! That we choose to pretend the cuckoo in the nest is in fact the body it ejected is another example of fanciful history that exists to suit an agenda rather than tell the truth. Hence they will say Justin Welby is the 107th successor to Augustine and not the 37th since Cramner.

And then of course there is the Inquisition seen as clear evidence that Catholicism was ever a cruel and wicked thing. The accusation being that the Catholic Church had many tortured and murdered. But even this historic claim is based on bigotry not fact. So I am very grateful to the BBC for having produced the programme above which blasts the theory of the Inquisition out of the water.  Do watch it. The bottom line is this…it never actually happened.

None of us can be pleased that the nation is abandoning its Christian heritage to buy into a secularism founded on atheism. But an unintended positive consequence of that is that sectarianism is therefore dying and old national lies are washed away. The result being that historians are approaching evidence with a truly open mind, not with bios already in place, and so the truth is coming forth.

It does makes you wonder how much else we accept as fact in history is actually far removed from reality?

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18 thoughts on “The inquisition….which never happened.

    1. How so? He belongs to an ecclesial structure that has never been in communion with the Church Augustine belonged to. Indeed the erectors of this new ecclesial structure raised his buildings to the ground and threw his bones (relics) to the dogs precisely to show a break not a continuation. The new body that emerged may well be found using the same buildings and titles but only because they were taken by force and not because of continuation.

    2. That “succession” PR ‘message’ has long and mostly unchallenged roots. After all, it was constructed to bolster the ‘establishment’ agenda of the times. It will be difficult to dislodge because it requires a shift of mind-set out of long established comfort zones. Perhaps the advice of another Agustine (of Hippo) should be borne in mind:- “Leave the past to God’s mercy, the present to his love and the future to his providence”. He will guide in His timetable. He asks us to accept the guidance but leaves us free to refuse. In my own specialism I run up against the situation often. Student’s historical views are informed by Hollywood and other fiction. They find it difficult to adjust to historical fact when presented with the sources and the hard evidence.

  1. Hello Fr Ed,

    It always astounds me that the protestants wanted to break away from The Church and then are at pains to claim they are that Church which never went away but was driven underground. Seemingly wanting their cake and eat it?

    Dominus Vobiscum,


  2. That archbishops of Canterbury are in some sense successors of Augustine has been accepted by popes, including, very publicly, Pope John XXIII and the last pope.

    1. A polite recognition of a form of address is not the same thing as recognition of succession in the original office. By the way, I notice that the arms of Canterbury uses the Pallium which can only be given by the Pope and the use of which indicates unity with and acceptance of the Petrine Office. Some of the CoE archbishops have used the item in their own arms and some have not. It seems to me that in Catholic terms, the current successor archbishop would be that of Westminster, into whose jurisdiction Canterbury falls. The original catholic archbishopric, if not dormant, would seem to be sede vacante. Who knows we may see it again – the Lord moves in mysterious ways etc.

  3. Following the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales, a law was passed prohibiting the Catholic Church from re-appointing clergy to her ancient diocese. The Catholic Church in Ireland ignored this prohibition. In Scotland, where the established Church of Scotland disdained episcopacy, there was no such prohibition. The last Catholic Archbishop (Beaton) was murdered in the sixteenth century, after which the archdiocese. Few would argue that the successor of Cardinal Beaton is not the current Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews. The Episcopalian claim is regarded as less than tenuous. The (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland is much more honest when it comes to acknowledging the discontinuities of the Reformation.

  4. It is true that since VaticanII’s decree on ecumenism that the popes have shown a more conciliatory attitude to Archbishops of Canterbury but I think the operative words in John’s comment are ‘in some sense’. Rome’s approach has always emphasised that the See of Canterbury was founded on the initiative of Pope St. Gregory, and in this way has sought to remind Anglicans that the Church of England was once the Church IN England; thus there is an implied call to return to Catholic unity.

  5. Sorry to be pedantic but it is perhaps worth pointing out that the last pre-Reformation Archbishop of St Andrews was not Cardinal Beaton,but rather his successor John Hamilton who was executed at Stirling on 7th April 1571 ( for political, not religious reasons).
    The last pre-Reformation Scottish archbishop was Archbishop James Betoun,Archbishop of Glasgow,who died (in his bed) in Paris on 25th April 1603.

    1. Very happy to be corrected, Andrew, and I am grateful for this.

      The broader point about the Church of Scotland’s more honest recognition of the discontinuities of the Reformation stands.

  6. It was interesting for me to stumble across your blog when I was looking up information on the Inquisition. The revisionist histories have been very helpful for correcting wild exaggerations that have persisted through time about the Inquisition in Spain. The BBC documentary offers good representation of the new research.

    But for you to say the Inquisition ‘never actually happened’, this is untrue and irresponsible.

    The bottom line is this: thousands of people were put to death as a result of tribunals conducted by the Catholic Church or its allies, the reason being that they were judged as less than true Catholics. It seems we can’t know the precise number but it’s likely to be several thousand. That may not be tens of thousands, but it is still a significant number of human lives lost in the name of Catholic orthodoxy.

    Any serious Catholic should look at that (revised) history seriously, rather than dismiss or ignore it.

    1. I think the point is that these people were killed by the State for political not religious reasons, whatever the stated sentence.

    2. Moshe, I found this on Wikipedia.
      “Beginning in the 19th century, historians have gradually compiled statistics drawn from the surviving court records, from which estimates have been calculated by adjusting the recorded number of convictions by the average rate of document loss for each time period. Gustav Henningsen and Jaime Contreras studied the records of the Spanish Inquisition, which list 44,674 cases of which 826 resulted in executions in person and 778 in effigy (i.e. a straw dummy was burned in place of the person).[49] William Monter estimated there were 1000 executions between 1530–1630 and 250 between 1630–1730.[50] Jean-Pierre Dedieu studied the records of Toledo’s tribunal, which put 12,000 people on trial.[51] For the period prior to 1530, Henry Kamen estimated there were about 2,000 executions in all of Spain’s tribunals.[52] Italian Renaissance history professor and Inquisition expert Carlo Ginzburg had his doubts about using statistics to reach a judgment about the period. “In many cases, we don’t have the evidence, the evidence has been lost,” said Ginzburg.[53]”

      There is concrete evidence as per the BBC documentary that The Inquisition was and still is used extensively for anti Catholic propaganda purposes and the numbers (though each is a lost life) who were put to death have been hugely exaggerated.

      1. Hi Denis,

        I’ve read this Wiki entry among other sources. It is important to understand the degree to which numbers of victims of the Inquisition have been hugely exaggerated for anti-Catholic agendas. Some folks have quoted the dead to be in the millions! Clearly skewed perceptions has been allowed to thrive, which is a shame. I’m glad we have a more accurate number coming to us in recent years. The BBC doc – among other correctives out there – is great for clarifying this history.

        My initial response was intended to correct the initial claim on this blog: that the Inquisition never actually happened. It did happen, and thousands of people (over a few hundred years) died because of it. Revisionist histories have given us much ‘better numbers’, but this should not tempt us to dismiss the facts entirely. I find it disturbing that one would be led to say the Inquisition didn’t happen at all. It’s not healthy to counter propaganda with the dismissal of a real history.

        Something else to keep in mind is how many human lives were disrupted by punishments that fell short of death. This number would of course be greater than the number of dead.

        Lately I’ve been reading accounts of the murder of many heretics that occurred over the years in the middle ages. Fortunately we live in much better times now. But I think it’s dangerous to forget or deny this history.

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