The Vatican – Pre-Inquisition

Posted by: Phil Jayhan

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Inquisition is defined by the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia in this way:

By this term is usually meant a special ecclesiastical institutional (sic) for combating or suppressing heresy….
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Inquisition

And Merriam-Webster defines heresy as:

adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma.

Gregory IX offers this definition of a heretic:

In the decretals of Gregory IX., a heretic is defined to be a man “who, in whatever way, or by whatever vain argument, is led away and dissents from the orthodox faith and Catholic religion which is professed by the Church of Rome.”…
Decret. Gregorii IX. lib. v,. tit. vii. De Hereticis. quoted in The Papacy: Its History, Dogmas,Genius, and Prospects by Rev. J.A. Wylie, LL.D. Booke One, Chapter Six

Scriptural background on heresy:

Heresy in the Christian Church has been common since the time of Christ and the apostles. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

For there must be also heresies among you, that they who are approved may be become evident among you. I Corinthians 11.19

The biblical method of dealing with heresy and heretics is, first, instruction, admonition, or rebuke. The elders, bishops, pastors are to be sound in spirit and doctrine, so that they might, by these means, win the gainsayers. If this is unsuccessful, excommunication is the last resort. In this way, the heretic is delivered over to Satan where, being cut off from the Church, he will be judged by God.

5 ¶ For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God … .
9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convict those who contradict.
10 For there are many rebellious and vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision:
11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.
12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.
13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Titus 1.5, 7, 9-13

10 A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject;
11 Knowing that he who is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by himself. Titus 3.10-1

18 ¶ This charge I commit to thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies made before concerning thee, that thou by them mayest war a good warfare;
19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. I Timothy 1.18-20

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1 ¶ It is reported commonly that there is immorality among you, and such immorality as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5 To deliver such one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6 Your boasting is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7 ¶ Therefore purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 ¶ I wrote to you in my epistle not to associate with immoral people: 10 Yet not altogether with immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then ye must needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a person no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are outside the church? do ye not judge them that are within?
13 But them that are outside God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
I Corinthians 5.1-13

8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
9 Whoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
10 ¶ If any one cometh to you, and bringeth not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither wish him greetings:
11 For he that wisheth him greetings is partaker of his evil deeds. II John 8-11

The ultimate punishment that was to be meted out by the Christian and by the Church was excommunication and separation from the fellowship of the Church. In this way, the ‘heretic’ was given over to the righteous judgment of God.

Historically, the major means that the church had of combating heretics was to excommunicate them. In the 12th and 13th centuries, however, the Inquisition was established by the church to combat heresy; heretics who refused to recant after being tried by the church were handed over to the civil authorities for punishment, usually execution.
Copyright © 1994-2000 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., Heresy

… In the early church the usual penalty for heresy was excommunication….
Copyright © Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, Microsoft Corporation, Inquisition

The discipline of the Catholic church is based on the power of the keys intrusted to the apostles and their successors, and includes the excommunication and restoration of delinquent members. It was originally a purely spiritual jurisdiction, but after the establishment of Christianity as the national religion, it began to affect also the civil and temporal condition of the subjects of punishment. It obtained a powerful hold upon the public mind from the universal belief of the middle ages that the visible church, centering in the Roman papacy, was by divine appointment the dispenser of eternal salvation, and that expulsion from her communion, unless followed by repentance and restoration, meant eternal damnation. No heresy or sect ever claimed this power.
History of the Christian Church, by Philip Schaff, Volume IV, Chapter 8, § 85; The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.

At times, God’s truth was deemed ‘heresy’ by the ecclesiastical authorities. E.g. when they crucified Christ, or Paul’s experience in Acts 24.14:

14 But this I confess to thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

In the same way, Rome and the papacy have often considered those who believe and practice the things written in the Scriptures to be heretics, and have sought to destroy them via the Inquisition – e.g. Waldenses, Jan Hus, William Tyndale, etc.

When the high priest and the Sadducees laid hands on the apostles and cast them into prison and wished to slay them for preaching ‘heretical’ doctrines, Gamaliel counseled with godly wisdom to restrain them from such an action, and to rather leave the apostles to God’s righteous judgment (see Acts 5.12-40).

There are many examples contained within the New Testament by which we might be instructed on how to deal with heresy and heretics. Christ taught us that the wheat and the tares would grow together until the time of judgment (Matthew 13.24-30). At no time did the apostolic church mete out temporal punishment such as death, imprisonment, torture, or confiscation of goods. Even when Ananias and Saphira died for lying to the Holy Spirit, their sentence was not executed by any human court or power (Acts 5.1-10).

Thus Rome and the papacy are without excuse for resorting to the methods used in the Inquisition.

Inquisition history:

The measures for the repression and extermination of heresy culminated in the organized system, known as the Inquisition. Its history presents what is probably the most revolting spectacle in the annals of civilized Europe. The representatives of the Church appear … in the name of religion applying torture to countless helpless victims … and pronouncing upon them a sentence which, they knew, involved perpetual imprisonment or death in the flames…. It is … an astounding fact that for the mercy of Christ the Church authorities, who should have represented him, substituted relentless cruelties….
¶ The Inquisition was a thoroughly papal institution, wrought out in all its details by the popes of the thirteenth century, beginning with Innocent III and not ending with Boniface VIII….
¶ The legislation, fixing the Inquisition as a Church institution and elaborating its powers, began with the synod of Tours in 1163 and the oecumenical council of 1179. A large step in advance was made by the council of Verona, 1184. The Fourth Lateran, 1215, and the council of Toulouse, 1229, formally established the Inquisition and perfected the organization. Gregory IX., Innocent IV., and Alexander IV. enforced its regulations and added to them. From first to last the popes were its chief promoters.
History of the Christian Church, by Philip Schaff, Volume V, Chapter 10, § 86

The Inquisition is generally divided into 3 major phases, each authorized by the papacy. They were:

1.) the Medieval Inquisition, authorized by ‘pope’ Gregory IX in 1231. It was initially directed against some of the Christian sects of that day such as the Cathari, Albigenses, and Waldenses. For the record, it should be pointed out that each of these sects actively opposed the corrupt popish clergy of the day. And while the belief system of the Cathari, and thus of the Albigenses, may have been heterodox (there is not enough of a record remaining for us to know for sure), the beliefs of the Waldenses were surely orthodox—in fact, more orthodox than those of papal Rome. The Waldenses opposed such papal doctrines as ‘purgatory’ and prayers to and for the dead—heretical practices of Rome to this day.

2.) the Spanish Inquisition, authorized by ‘pope’ Sixtus IV in 1478, added to the objects of papal wrath Jewish and Muslim converts to the faith. These conversions were mostly insincere, having been the result of coercion and/or social pressure. Also, suspected Protestants were targeted at this time.

3.) the Congregation of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition, or Holy Office, or Roman Inquisition, instituted by ‘pope’ Paul III in 1542 focused papal terror upon the Protestants.

In the 12th century, the state of the papal ‘catholic’ church was such that excommunication from it was no longer deliverance over to Satan, for Satan had plenty of influence within the church as well as without. The Council of Tours was presided over by ‘pope’ Alexander III:

… The name Albigenses, given them by the Council of Tours (1163) prevailed towards the end of the twelfth century and was for a long time applied to all the heretics of the south of France…. The rise and spread of the new doctrine in southern France was favoured by various circumstances, among which may be mentioned … their contempt for the Catholic clergy, caused by the ignorance and the worldly, too frequently scandalous, lives of the latter … .
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Albigenses

The Church admitted that it had brought upon itself the dangers which threatened it—that the alarming progress of heresy was caused and fostered by clerical negligence and corruption. In his opening address to the great Lateran Council, Innocent III had no scruples in declaring to the assembled fathers: “The corruption of the people has its chief source in the clergy. From this arise the evils of Christendom: faith perishes, religion is defaced, liberty is restricted, justice is trodden under foot, the heretics multiply, the schismatics are emboldened, the faithless grow strong, the Saracens are victorious;”
A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, (Vol 1, 1888), p. 129, Henry Charles Lea, Harbor Press 1955

The papacy began to resort to temporal means of persuasion to suppress ‘heretics’. Rome’s methods amounted to plain thievery (confiscation), murder, and worse. They were indeed the ‘terrorists’ of their day.

… The Council of Reims (1148) excommunicated the protectors “of the heretics of Gascony and Provence.” That of Tours (1163) decreed that the Albigenses should be imprisoned and their property confiscated….
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Albigenses

“As soon as a suspected heretic was cited or arrested the secular officials sequestered his property and notified his debtors by proclamation.” (p. 505)
¶ According to the most lenient construction of the law, therefore, the imprisonment of a reconciled convert carried with it the confiscation of his property, and as imprisonment was the ordinary penance, confiscation was general.” (p. 508)
A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, (Vol 1, 1888), pp. 505, 508, Henry Charles Lea, Harbor Press 1955

Until the 12th century the church generally opposed coercion and physical penalties for acts of heresy, but then opinion changed. Pope Innocent III organized a Crusade against the Albigenses, a heretical sect. In 1231 Pope Gregory IX placed inquisitors under special papal jurisdiction….
Encarta® 98 Desk Encyclopedia, Inquisition. © 1996-97 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Innocent, in particular, never seemed to grasp that the deepest and wickedest of heresies is the denial of the Gospel, the practical renunciation of the Sermon on the Mount. He had no qualms about using Christ’s name to do everything Christ objected to. In Innocent’s view, it was more wicked for the Albigensians to call him the Antichrist than for him to prove it by burning them, men, women and children in their thousands.
Vicars of Christ, The Dark Side of the Papacy, Peter De Rosa, Copyright © 1988, first American edition, pp. 161-62

Capital punishment became the standard means of dealing with heretics:

In the Acts of the Councils of the eleventh and twelfth centuries which treat of the combating of heresy there is never even a suggestion of capital punishment. Neither did any secular law before 1197 demand the death penalty for heresy. But there were not wanting canonists who, basing their opinion on the Roman Law, the study of which was then much in vogue, declared that impenitent heretics may, and even should, be punished by death.
Church History by John Laux, M.A. published by Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Rockford, Illinois 61105

Canon 27 of the Third Lateran Council (1179), presided over by Alexander III, includes the following for the treatment of ‘heretics’:

… As long as such people persist in their wickedness, let all who are bound to them by any pact know that they are free from all obligations of loyalty, homage or any obedience. On these and on all the faithful we enjoin, for the remission of sins, that they oppose this scourge with all their might and by arms protect the Christian people against them. Their goods are to be confiscated and princes free to subject them to slavery….

It appears that ‘pope’ Lucius III, at the Synod of Verona in 1184, took it a step further:

At the Synod of Verona in 1184, Lucius, in agreement with the Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, decreed the excommunication of heretics and their protectors; after ecclesiastical trial, heretics who refused to recant were transferred to civil authorities for punishment—usually death by burning. Lucius’ synod activated the strict decrees of the third Lateran Council (1179) … .
Copyright © 1994-2000 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., Lucius III

Waldenses or Waldensians … . were formally declared heretics by Pope Lucius III in 1184 and by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. In 1211 more than 80 were burned as heretics at Strasbourg, beginning several centuries of persecution. The Waldenses proclaimed the Bible as the sole rule of life and faith….
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition Copyright © 2000, Columbia University Press, Waldenses

‘Pope’ Innocent III carried on in the same manner with the Fourth Lateran Council.

… In the year of the fourth Lateran, 1215, St. Dominic received the Pontiff’s commission to judge and deliver to punishment apostate and relapsed and obstinate heretics. This was the Inquisition, though lacking as yet its full organization and equipment….
The History of Protestantism, Volume First – Book First, Chapter 10, by James A. Wylie

This from Constitution 3 of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), presided over by ‘pope’ Innocent III:

… We condemn all heretics, whatever names they may go under. They have different faces indeed but their tails are tied together inasmuch as they are alike in their pride. Let those condemned be handed over to the secular authorities present, or to their bailiffs, for due punishment. Clerics are first to be degraded from their orders. The goods of the condemned are to be confiscated, if they are lay persons … . If however a temporal lord, required and instructed by the church, neglects to cleanse his territory of this heretical filth, he shall be bound with the bond of excommunication by the metropolitan and other bishops of the province. If he refuses to give satisfaction within a year, this shall be reported to the supreme pontiff so that he may then declare his vassals absolved from their fealty to him and make the land available for occupation by Catholics so that these may, after they have expelled the heretics, possess it unopposed and preserve it in the purity of the faith … .

… Moreover, we determine to subject to excommunication believers who receive, defend or support heretics…. He shall be intestable, that is he shall not have the freedom to make a will nor shall succeed to an inheritance. Moreover nobody shall be compelled to answer to him on any business whatever, but he may be compelled to answer to them. If he is a judge sentences pronounced by him shall have no force and cases may not be brought before him; if an advocate, he may not be allowed to defend anyone; if a notary, documents drawn up by him shall be worthless and condemned along with their condemned author … .

… We add further that each archbishop or bishop, either in person or through his archdeacon or through suitable honest persons, should visit twice or at least once in the year any parish of his in which heretics are said to live. There he should compel three or more men of good repute, or even if it seems expedient the whole neighbourhood, to swear that if anyone knows of heretics there or of any persons who hold secret conventicles or who differ in their life and habits from the normal way of living of the faithful, then he will take care to point them out to the bishop. The bishop himself should summon the accused to his presence, and they should be punished canonically … .

From the same constitution, the suspected were presumed guilty until they would “prove their innocence”:

… Those who are only found suspect of heresy are to be struck with the sword of anathema, unless they prove their innocence by an appropriate purgation, having regard to the reasons for suspicion and the character of the person. Let such persons be avoided by all until they have made adequate satisfaction. If they persist in the excommunication for a year, they are to be condemned as heretics….

The entire text can be accessed by clicking on the link above. Now compare that mentality with the exhortation of Paul to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 5.9-13:

9 ¶ I wrote to you in my epistle not to associate with immoral people:
10 Yet not altogether with immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then ye must needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a person no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are outside the church? do ye not judge them that are within?
13 But them that are outside God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Paul understood that there would always be sinners in the world, and that, to escape from them, we would have to leave the world. The duty of the Christian is to, by the preaching of the Gospel and by an exemplary life, win sinners to the faith. The papacy has declared, by the above edicts, that the duty of the Roman Catholic is to drive such sinners from their lands, steal their lands and their goods, make slaves of them, deny to them the opportunity to do honest work, and to condemn them in every way possible. Perhaps ‘popes’ Alexander and Innocent III never read Romans 2.3-4:

3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them who do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Rome’s is surely an odd way of exhibiting the goodness of God. And how do these who proclaim themselves to be the shepherds of Christ’s Church reconcile their teachings with those of Jesus, who taught us to love even our enemies (Matthew 5.43-48), and who taught us that all of God’s law is contained in two commandments, the second of which is “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”? (Mark 12.28-34)

The above passages are examples of the papal mentality prior to the institution of the Medieval Inquisition which was established in 1231 by the decree of ‘pope’ Gregory IX.


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