MEDIEVAL TORTURE AND
THE SPANISH INQUISITION
BY GRAHAM MOORHOUSE
POSTED BY: WEB TEAM | 08.11.2016
Anti-Catholicism is in our blood!
The problem with discussing Catholicism with many native English-speakers is that they come to the table loaded down with so much baggage. They have been formed by 400 years of anti-Catholic propaganda. Consequently, their negative view of the Catholic religion is in the national subconscious, it is in our blood. If a man actually believes at the level of his sub-conscious that a rosebush is a man-eating tiger, he will jump and break out in a sweat of fear when he passes a rosebush regardless of the fact that at the level of conscious thought he knows that this is absurd.
One can illustrate the point we are making by invoking the Inquisition. The very word will conjure up nightmare visions of some poor Protestant being racked for the good of his soul, while a sadistic hooded monk looks on gloating. The fact is that the word “Inquisition” simply means “Inquiry”. And there have been scores of inquisitions throughout the Church’s history.
When the popes ruled half of Italy, it was the name given to the Church’s legal system. This was so benign in comparison with the secular legal systems of the time that, in the areas where there was dual jurisdiction, accused would seek to be tried by the Inquisition as opposed to the secular courts.
The Spanish Inquisition (1478 to 1808) is the one people usually mean when they talk about “The Inquisition”. This Inquisition had the misfortune to be operating at a time when the Spanish were our mortal enemies. To understand the genesis of the Spanish Inquisition, first reflect on the appalling Islamic slaughter of the innocent in Nice, Paris, Brussels' Airport and many other places. Queen Isabella and her consort, Ferdinand, had just ended 700 years of occupation of their country by Islamists, and were therefore having to deal with similar barbarism. Indeed, only twelve years earlier, 813 villagers from the Salentine town of Otranto in southern Italy had had their heads sawn off and their wives and daughters taken as sex-slaves by invading Islamists for refusing to abandon Christ and become Muslims. Isabella's and Ferdinand's solution was to deport the remaining Islamists from Spain and grant them safe passage back to Northern Africa. Many took up the offer of safe passage, but some became Catholics in order to be allowed to stay. However, a number of these converts were insincere and some were still plotting the sort of Islamic atrocities against innocent people that we have become so sadly familiar with today. Isabella and Ferdinand initially set up the Spanish Inquisition to root out these false convert, secret hate preachers and clandestine jihadists.
One may also point out that while the Church was heavily implicated in the Spanish Inquisition, it was a secular, not a Church, inquiry. Most of the penalties handed down were spiritual, rather than physical. Its severest sentences were reserved for people who bore false witness against others. As for torture, in an age when the secular powers (including England) used torture routinely, the Inquisition was restricted by its rules to using it rarely and in very limited circumstances. And as for persecuting Protestants, not one Protestant was ever arrested by the Inquisition, let alone tried - for one very simple reason, the Inquisition regarded non-Catholics as outside its jurisdiction.
By the standards of the time, the Inquisition was very enlightened and its judicial procedures were streets ahead of their time. Such things as the need for witnesses, the rights of the accused to question and challenge their accusers and the right of appeal where all laid down. Inquisitors did not have to be clerics, but they did have to be qualified lawyers. As for the death penalty, it has been notoriously difficult to reach a consensus on the numbers involved, but the highest number supported by serious historians is in the order of 3,000 to 5,000 over the entire 330 years of its operation.
While we may all readily agree that 3,000 to 5,000 was 3,000 to 5,000 too many, it pales into insignificance in comparison to the 150,000 documented witch-burnings in Protestant Britain, Germany and New England over the same period, where often a mere accusation was enough to send one to the stake. The Spanish were spared this carnage by the judicial standards of the Inquisition and its absolute requirement for hard evidence.
Queen Mary -v- Queen Elizabeth I
The Protestant journalist and reformer, William Cobbett (1763-1835), describing the Tudor deception, stated that, “for every drop of blood (Catholic) Mary shed, (Protestant) Elizabeth shed a pint.” Yet we are conditioned to refer to Mary as “Bloody Mary” and to Elizabeth as “Good Queen Bess”, and while the former sends our blood cold, the latter evokes feelings of national pride in a great monarch.
Raphael Holisend, the Protestant historian, wrote that Henry VIII executed 72,000 Catholics, while Elizabeth I killed more than the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions combined did in 300 years! Further, Elizabeth’s warrants frequently dispensed with a trial and proceeded straight to hanging and disembowelling, the penalty for merely being a faithful Catholic pr
The Enlightenment and the French Revolution
The Rationalists behind the French Revolution, in the two years, 1792-1794, managed to slaughter over 40,000 (at least eight times as many as the Spanish Inquisition managed in 330 years). Many were executed for merely refusing to abandon their Catholic Faith. The "Committee of Public Safety" under Robespierre, on the 10th June 1794, pushed through a law abolishing the right of the accused to a trial. It was actually argued at the time by Robespierre’s mouthpiece, Georges Couthon, that the right to a trial was no more than a prejudice left over from France’s (Catholic) past.
Nevertheless, our anti-Catholic conditioning has “taught” us to believe that the French Revolution was on balance a good and enlightened thing, notwithstanding the fact that its nearest modern equivalent would have been the Hutu massacre of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in April 1994.
During the Age of Enlightenment, championed by Voltaire and later the French Revolution, people were commonly executed by “breaking on the wheel”. A method of execution which very slowly reduced its victims limbs to pulped flesh with shards of bone sticking through. In our enlightened age,, of course, that sort of bloody end is strictly reserved by secularists for unborn children whose only ‘crime’ is inconveniencing the secular gods of unbridled licentiousness by daring to be conceived.
It is also interesting to compare the effect that the word “inquisition” has on the soul of the average Englishman with his relatively bland reaction to the following list of facts: 7,000,000 murdered (without trial) by the Nazis (self-confessed pagans); 20,000,000 murdered by Stalin (a militant atheist); a number only exceeded by the Chinese communist (more militant atheists); the nearly 7,000 unarmed priests and nuns murdered by the Bolsheviks (more militant atheists) in a few months in Spain (a slaughter which sparked the Spanish civil war); and one could add the 1,000,000 (a number that would have been nearer 2,000,000 had it not been for the courageous sanctions-busting activities of Irish Catholic missionaries) Biafran babies and young children, who, in less than two years, were starved to death to serve the oil policies of Harold Wilson’s government of secular humanists.
There is a good deal of secularist propaganda to the effect that religion is at the root of all the strife in the world. The facts, as opposed to the propaganda, are very simple. Wars fought by, or on behalf of, the Church (such as the Crusades) have killed about 4,500,000 people over the last 2000 years. Secular humanist, militant atheists and Nazis (i.e. pagans) have accounted for something nearer 200,000,000 in the last 80 years! This means that you are at least a 1,000 times more likely to be slaughtered by a militant atheist in the service of his ideology than by a Catholic in the service of his.
You may wonder why when writing about the Catholic religion we have devoted a whole essay to what is very much a side issue. Well, it is important for English speaking people, if they are to explore the faith of the Church in an open and objective way, honestly to face up to the fact that they are coming to the table loaded down with cultural baggage. Further, unless they have the intellectual insight and courage to consciously divest themselves of some of this accumulated baggage, they are wasting their time.
Many English Catholics also carry some of this baggage, especially the young. Its result is a reduced sense of self-worth, a sort of cultural low self-esteem. It is unavoidable, for anti-Catholicism is in the air we breathe and we take it in with our mother’s milk. It is simply that after over 400 years of enculturation we no longer notice that we are doing so.
You may protest that England is no longer a Protestant, but a secular humanist country. However, secular humanism is the daughter of Protestantism (albeit the illegitimate daughter) - it is the antithesis of Catholicism and one of the key ideologies behind the systematic murder of countless millions, born and unborn, in our time.
I have concentrated in the above essay on the slaughter carried out in the name of atheism and progress. In another essay we may take a look at the slaughter carried out in the name of Islam. This amounts to something in the order of 270 million killed by jihad in the last fourteen centuries - which makes Hitler, Stalin and Mao combined look like enthusiastic amateurs.