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Context, all is context?

posted by awelborn

The Inquisition returns –

The four-part documentary on the UKTV History channel draws on research gleaned from Vatican files only opened to scrutiny in 1998.

It highlights periods of the persecution that began in the 13th century and ended only in the late 1800s.

The Inquisition was established by Pope Gregory in 1233 as a special court to help curb the influence of beliefs deemed to deviate from official Church doctrine.

Interviewed in the documentary, The Secret Files of the Inquisition, Fr Di Noia [Under-Secretary for the CDF) says: "It was a mistake to torture people.

"However, torture was regarded as a perfectly justified, legitimate way of producing evidence and it was therefore legally justified."

I fail to see how this is controversial, as various news accounts have made it out to be. There is nothing controversial about describing actions and attitudes of the past in context. He doesn’t say it was justifiable, or that Christians could never have done otherwise, made other choices. He says – in the place and position in which the Church dwelt, it was understandable. That’s what historians do. That’s how they look at history.



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al

posted January 30, 2006 at 1:57 pm


Well, there’s always the question of Exsurge Domine, which solemnly condemned the following premise: “33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit. ”



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mulopwepaul

posted January 30, 2006 at 2:46 pm


The Holy Spirit wills that none should perish, but that doesn’t invalidate the historical practice of capital punishment either.
PVO



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Liam

posted January 30, 2006 at 3:20 pm


Though Exsurge Domine did not condemn the proposition “That heretics be burned is [not good for some other reason]“.
Which leaves a wide amount of room for the Church to deal with the past in an honest way.
It should be noted that, in the 13th century, the new methods of the Inquisition (drawing on the renewed study of Roman law begun in the prior century and a half) were generally more advanced in fairness compared to the legal practices then common until that point in time. (Remember, a witch floats…)



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al

posted January 30, 2006 at 3:28 pm


So the Spirit is indifferent to certain wrongs. .. . I don’t think so. . .



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Donald R. McClarey

posted January 30, 2006 at 3:56 pm


Reconciling what the Church did yesterday with what it is doing today is a difficult, but necessary, exercise. In regard to the Inquisition and various other activities of the Church that most moderns find distasteful, we always have to sift what was a true expression of the doctrine of the Church and what might be perceived as the leaders of the Church simply taking actions based upon the beliefs and prejudices of the times in which they lived. However, this technique must be used with care. Just because something in Church history is unpopular today doesn’t mean that it wasn’t firmly based in Church doctrine. We are also handicapped in making this judgment, because we are influenced no less by the spirit of our times than members of the Church in the past were influenced by popular beliefs of their day.



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Tom Haessler

posted January 30, 2006 at 3:59 pm


Al,
It is entirely unacceptable to drag out this ED quote out of context. It would be impossible to establish that this proposition was condemned as somehow false because the censures are (1) not applied to individual propositions, and (2) include the censure “offensive to pious ears” which is traditional language for the idea “it may be true, but it’s not really going to help in our ministry to save souls at this time”.
I believe that it is, and always was, contrary to God’s will that heretics be burned. Feel free to denounce me to the doctrinal congregation.
Non-historical orthodoxy is not Benedict’s agenda.



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Sandra Miesel

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:00 pm


Nobody in Europe was trying witches in 1233. Accepted Church teaching at the time, following “canon episcopi” was that witches did not exist. Too bad that experience suppressing heretics slowly changed this perception.



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Tom Haessler

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:16 pm


“vel hereticos, vel falso, vel scandalosus, vel piarum aurium offensivos, vel simplicium mentium seductivos”
Only the first two censures guarantee that a proposition is untrue. A true proposition can be condemned under the rubric of the last three censures.
For example, the proposition “every part of Our Lord’s Sacred Humanity is adorable (able to be worshiped with the act theologians describe as LATRIA)” is true. However, it shouldn’t be difficult to imagine that the selection of certain body parts for this latreutic worship could easily elicit condemnation as “offensive to pious ears.”



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Tom Haessler

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:17 pm


should be “vel falsos”



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Richter

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:22 pm


The real question for our consideration here is not “what does the Holy Spirit think of what people were doing in 1233?” We can – and in charity maybe should – think up excuses for these people, though for any parent of a teenager “everyone else was doing it” (which is what this “justification” boils down to) doesn’t carry a lot of weight. But that’s between the inquisitors and their supporters, and God.
No no people, the real question is, what horrors are we, the Catholic Church, perpetrating NOW for which we will later only be able to say, lamely, “well….everyone else (the larger culture) was doing it….”?



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Tom Haessler

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:31 pm


Right on, Richter!



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Richter

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:35 pm


Italics off, sorry



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Richter

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:53 pm


However, this technique must be used with care. Just because something in Church history is unpopular today doesn’t mean that it wasn’t firmly based in Church doctrine.
Donald. In my dreams, this statement cannot be made to mean that it was somehow OK to torture suspected heretics?
The question is, “is this practice (whatever it may be) consistent with the teachings of Jesus?”



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al

posted January 30, 2006 at 5:05 pm


Tom,
That’s not at all what ‘offensive to pious ears’ means. It means: “offensive when verbal expression is such as rightly to shock the Catholic sense and delicacy of faith”



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al

posted January 30, 2006 at 5:11 pm


Tom,
And as regards you major point, that somehow Error 33 may have been true, but impolitic, Leo seemingly clarifies that: “We have found that these errors or theses are not Catholic, as mentioned above, and are not to be taught, as such; but rather are against the doctrine and tradition of the Catholic Church, and against the true interpretation of the sacred Scriptures received from the Church. . . .With the advice and consent of these our venerable brothers, with mature deliberation on each and every one of the above theses, and by the authority of almighty God, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own authority, we condemn, reprobate, and reject completely each of these theses or errors as either heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears or seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth.”



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Donald R. McClarey

posted January 30, 2006 at 5:11 pm


“The question is, “is this practice (whatever it may be) consistent with the teachings of Jesus?”"
A good standard, especially when we pay attention to all the teachings of Christ including Matthew 16:19: “And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.
Et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum et quodcumque ligaveris super terram erit ligatum in caelis et quodcumque solveris super terram erit solutum in caelis.”
You will find Popes on both sides of this issue, as well as Saints.
Personally myself, an American born in the Twentieth Century, I find the notion of burning anyone for heresy repugnant. I suspect, however, if I had been born back in the Thirteenth Century and was a loyal son of the Church, my opinion may have been a good deal different.



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Liam

posted January 30, 2006 at 5:29 pm


Sandra
You are correct; I was anachronistically using a popular Pythonesque reference, of course.
But the quote from Exsurge Domine is not properly read as universal statement in favor of burning heretics as a general matter, which is what it seemed capable of being inferred in this thread.



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Dan

posted January 30, 2006 at 5:41 pm


There is a statistic I’d like to see for the following events: (1) the Spanish Inquisition; (2) the killing of at least 5 million Christians, mostly Catholic, by Hitler in the same manner that Jews were killed in the Holocaust; (3) the killing of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust; and(4) the killing of who knows how many millions of people by Mao and Stalin. The statistic I’d like to see for these events is the ratio of the number of words devoted to the event by the media to the number of people killed. The ratio for the Spanish Inquisition would be far and away the highest. The ratio for the forgotten Holocaust (number 2) would be far and away the lowest. Why is this?
The the most notorious inquisition is the Spanish Inquisition, which was conducted in significant part by the Spanish monarchy sometimes with opposition from the Church. The Spanish Inquisition did however involve some Church trials. It is generally believed that less than 10,000 people were put to death, whether by the Church or by the Spanish monarchy, over the course of several centuries. Recent review by historians of trial records suggest the number may have been less than 3,000. A substantial percentage of this number would include people put to death by the Spanish monarchy, not the Church.



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Caroline

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:06 pm


How much easier it would be if we could just admit without any word play that things we as Church did in the past were really, really wrong even if Popes and Councils said in very official ways that they were OK? Do we live in such a doctrinal house of cards that we have to pretzelize ourselves for fear of its collapsing?



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Old Zhou

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:12 pm


>Italic off>. Off.



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Maureen

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:34 pm


Nobody is saying it wasn’t wrong. They’re saying there’s a “however”.
The “however” is this: unlike earthly rulers, Popes and bishops and priests actually do have the power to bind and loose sins. Jesus told them this. So if the authority of the earthly Church says, “Okay, burning is an acceptable secular prudential death penalty method of dealing with heretics”, it was not legally speaking a sin for people at that time to do that.
Now, this does not mean that God doesn’t necessarily have a little chat with one after one is dead for using His power to bind and loose in a bad way. In fact, I’m sure this is one of the more scary things for priests to think about. And I’m sure it’s pretty hard to escape sinning in some way if you are in the habit of burning people to death, even if that was one of the usual secular treason penalties.
But God does seem to give His people reallllly long lengths of rope to play with. “You have made him little less than a god.”



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Richter

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:35 pm


Caroline is right, of course. It is only the diseased “need” to proclaim that we were always right no matter what nonsense we said in latter years that backs us into this corner.
We screwed up. In the past. News flash: we’re sinners. We may yet screw up in the present or the future. Same message. Conclusion? Use your head.
(Note to Donald: give up already with the Latin, Jesus probably didn’t speak Latin, give it a rest already.)



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Richter

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:39 pm


A good standard, especially when we pay attention to all the teachings of Christ including Matthew 16:19: “And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.
Good luck defending this before the Father. you’re going to need all the luck you can get and more, Donald.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:44 pm


“(Note to Donald: give up already with the Latin, Jesus probably didn’t speak Latin, give it a rest already.)”
I am shocked Richter, and no doubt Saint Jerome is also shocked. More seriously, since Jesus is God I have no doubt that he spoke and understood Latin just fine when the occasion called for it. Even more seriously, the Church doesn’t “screw up”. Never has, never will. Some of the men in positions of power within the Church have committed errors in the past, as they do today, but the Church and her Magisterium, drat, more of that dreadful Latin, are error free.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted January 30, 2006 at 7:46 pm


“Good luck defending this before the Father. you’re going to need all the luck you can get and more, Donald.”
Since His Son said it, I don’t think I’ll need any luck at all. Thank you for your kind concern in any case.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted January 30, 2006 at 8:20 pm


Richter,
Al’s citation of Exurge Domine deals with the issue of whether it was ok with God to burn heretics. Game, set and match. Your opinions to the contrary are just that. It’s not surprising for a person to reject difficult truths. What is a bit surprising, however, is for a defender of heretics against the actions of the pious to turn around and suggest Donald is going to end up in hell. But I guess you only have charity for heretics.



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Liam

posted January 30, 2006 at 8:25 pm


Loudon
No, you are reading into the passage from ED. It does not condemn *all* condemnations of burning for heresy. If it did, it would be worded rather differently.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted January 30, 2006 at 8:52 pm


Liam,
Regardless, when Richter fingers his beaded brackelet and asks himself “WWJD?” he concludes that the burning of heretics would be against the will of Our Lord. The Church has concluded otherwise. Nevertheless, Richter should feel free to continue kicking against the pricks.



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Michael Hugo

posted January 30, 2006 at 8:54 pm


…and they’ll know that we are Christians by our love….
Richter’s comments are right on, IMO.
It all seems to point to the absolute necessity of the Church, both institutionally and as individual Christians, to see ourselves as separate from the “world”. We can’t look to the world to define ANYTHING for us, because the world HATES us, to the extent we are actually living in Christ. It’s funny/sad that the world now condemns us for behaving like the world. We’ve had 20 centuries to learn this lesson.
As far as the death penalty goes, we must err on the side of love and forgiveness, regardless how doctrinally defensible the DP may seem to some.
We are baptized into a new life in Christ Jesus. To the extent that we conform to the world, we render his death and resurrection a pointless exercise.
…and they’ll know that we are Christians by our love…



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Michael Hugo

posted January 30, 2006 at 9:02 pm


…and the Church should REEEAAAALLLY be careful before it climbs into bed with the socialists. I know I’m about 70 years too late to be waving the red flag on this, but the stupidity continues.
The Church is too gutless to demand tithing, but it’s happy to demand secular governments provide free healthcare and, lest we forget, the “right” to work.
If the Church wants to cede it’s responsiblities to the unholy spirit of political agendas and govenment programs, it will continue to have to whitewash history.



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Victor Morton

posted January 30, 2006 at 9:24 pm


The statement “it is condemned to say that God condemns Punishment X” (I know that double verb makes it confusing, but that’s my point) is a statement about what God does NOT say. ED doesn’t speak otherwise to what, if anything, God actually DOES say about Punishment X. All that *necessarily* means is that Punishment X is licit in itself, but the condemnation is silent on whether it might become wrong or inadvisable according to time and/or circumstance.
The statement that God has little to say about punishment methods, once one reaches a certain level of specificity and detail, seems pretty obvious.



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Sandra Miesel

posted January 30, 2006 at 9:42 pm


On body parts of Christ: Tom, have you read THE SEXUALITY OF CHRIST IN RENAISSANCE ART? Some of the pictures analyzed would cause pious faints today.
The standard practice for Inquisitions (papal, Roman, Spanish, and Portuguese) was for the Church to try the accused and the State to punish them. When the Church is the State as in Papal territories and episocopal city-states, the Church also did the executing.
The Spanish Inquisition didn’t have that high a death toll, considering the length of time it operated and the size of the Spanish Empire. The real horror spots during the witch-craze of the 16th-17th C were prince-bishoprics of the Rhineland. These burnt more witches than the whole Spanish Inquisition executed for all crimes put together, after ghastly tortures the Inquisition didn’t use. Somehow these escape notice because the Black Legend still influences English-speaking cultures. I’m much more revolted by the behavior of Church institutions and Churchmen hunting witches than heretics.
The Church permitted the use of torture in legal processes because that was the system of Roman Law. It was by no means universal even in heresy trials because it wasn’t necessary to obtain the desired result–a confession. Neither Joan of Arc nor Galileo was tortured.
The shift to Roman Law trials from oath & ordeal judgments under barbarian law codes prevailing in the early Middle Ages was felt to represent progress back then. The imposition of total Roman Law systems Continental states in Early Modern times was bitterly resented by ordinary people, though.



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Christopher Fotos

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:32 am


Personally myself, an American born in the Twentieth Century, I find the notion of burning anyone for heresy repugnant. I suspect, however, if I had been born back in the Thirteenth Century and was a loyal son of the Church, my opinion may have been a good deal different.
Not that I’m spectacularly loyal, but I have the same problem.



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Spirit of Vatican II

posted January 31, 2006 at 3:06 am


Amazing how popular the inquisition is with neocaths. Someone can do a whitewash of Ad Extirpanda (Innocent IV, 1252, ratified by his successors) and explain how the variety of torture techniques it permits are to be reconciled with love and justice.



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Spirit of Vatican II

posted January 31, 2006 at 3:09 am


Those of you who are into the numbers game please factor in the massacres of Cathari, which Pope Innocent III never condemned.
The Inquisition was the result of a false doctrine that prevailed in the Church from Constantine to Vatican II, the doctrine that error has no rights and that freedom of conscience in matters of religion cannot be tolerated.
Instead of whitewashing we should be learning from this appalling error.



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al

posted January 31, 2006 at 6:27 am

Donald R. McClarey

posted January 31, 2006 at 6:56 am


“Amazing how popular the inquisition is with neocaths. Someone can do a whitewash of Ad Extirpanda (Innocent IV, 1252, ratified by his successors) and explain how the variety of torture techniques it permits are to be reconciled with love and justice.”
Oh, how clever, neocath! You must not think much of neo-cons. As a cradle Catholic I might be many things but a “new” Catholic is not one of them. As to Ad Extirpanda, its allowance of torture in questioning was not unusual in the context of the time. As Sandra notes this was largely a product of the revival of Roman law, and, I might add, a great advance over the arbitrary legal chaos that largely existed before this revival. What was unusual was the debate within the Church. Some of the successors of Innocent IV in the Middle Ages allowed the use of torture and some forbade it. Please, if you are going to bash the Church at least learn the actual history of the Church, rather than the Chick/Cornwell/Carroll variety.



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mulopwepaul

posted January 31, 2006 at 9:28 am


Any analysis of religious liberty from a modern secular perspective that does not take into account the fact of the confessional nature of all governments in the Middle Ages is dishonest. Heresy was constitutional treason under the political arrangements of the time. The unstable governments of that time had every reason, in fact obligation to mete out the severest penalties against traitors.
However much we prefer our own arrangements today, which may in fact be better, that does not invalidate either the death penalty in general or the prudential judgment of the leaders of the time that the Inquisition was the best guarantor of peace available at the time.
Some people, indoctrinated with enough propaganda , would shrink from defending the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Spain, for instance, had just ended a 700 year war of defence against Muslim invasion, including civil wars along the way in which Jews had played prominent parts. Any analysis of the failure of Ferdinand and Isabella to practise a religious liberty appealing to modern sensibilities which does not take this bloody history into account is dishonest from the start.
PVO



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Kevin Miller

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:49 am


Of course, the role the Jews played in those wars might have a little to do with they way they’d been treated by Christians before.
As for Exsurge, the condemnations are not an infallible definition. There’s nothing like “we define” there. So if – as I think is clearly the case – DH (or for that matter EV) contradicts ED, that isn’t a problem.



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Tom Haessler

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:12 am


Hello, Sandra,
Yes, I’ve read THE SEXUALITY OF CHRIST IN RENAISSANCE ART and think that the theme of the sexuality of Jesus is an important deepening of Chalcedonian Christology. But even then and now we don’t address Jesus’ private body parts in litanies. If someone did in private devotion, it’d be part of private spirituality, but as soon as it become a current the Church would probably censure the practice but would be teaching heresy (something it couldn’t do) if it insisted that the parts in question are not adorable.
And Al still doesn’t understand the meaning of “offensive to pious ears”. Routinely, in both dogma manuals and in systematic theology classes at a graduate level it is explained that such propositions may, indeed, be true.



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al

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:17 am


DH clearly says its not to be interpreted as contradicting any previous statement, as the Acta from the Council make clear, as well as the text itself, and the instruction attached to Lumen Gentium



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Tom Haessler

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:42 am


Donald, you seem to be a bit confused about the issue of Jesus and languages.
1. God cannot speak any language apart from the incarnation because He doesn’t have a larynx or a pharynx or lips or a tongue.
2. The human nature of the Word Incarnate does not make Jesus a superman or a polyglot. Jesus in His humanity may have known Latin, but He certainly did not know how to speak Mandarin Chinese. If he had decided to travel to China he would have to study this new language like anyone else before He could speak it. Of course, His divine nature could perform a miracle and permit Him to have infused knowledge of a new language, but that’s not the way He learned Aramaic. As Aquinas insists, the knowledge that Jesus has as man from the beatific vision is NOT in the form of enuntiables.
3. The Council of Chalcedon did not mean that there’s a pipe between the divine intellect and the human intellect allowing all knowledge to flow into the human intellect of Christ.
“This (human) knowledge could not in itself by unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man,” and would EVEN HAVE TO INQUIRE FOR HIMSELF WHAT ONE IN THE HUMAN CONDITION CAN LEARN ONLY FROM EXPERIENCE.” (CCC, 472)
Now here’s an example of a proposition that is “offensive to pious ears and seductive of simple minds” (like Creation “scientists” and some IDer’s): Jesus’ human intellect during his eartly ministry was clueless about primate evolution.



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Sandra Miesel

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:59 am


Oh, I was being flippant, Tom. And thinking of that painting of the Madonna draping her rosary around the Infant’s privates as the most extreme example of an image that would cause the pious to flutter. Please let not my remarks scare anyone away from reading THE SEXUALITY OF CHRIST, which is a remarkable book.
Lollard heretics were burnt in England by order of the State, under secular law. They were thought to be a danger to the safety of the Lancastrian regime. But England operated under customary law and used torture only in cases of treason.
Roman legal practice in Late Antiquity, unchanged by Christianization, required confessions to be obtained under torture. But only the lower classes, the humiliores, could be tortured.
Edward Peters book TORTURE is an excellent source on all this. (not “our” Edward Peters)



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Julia

posted January 31, 2006 at 12:58 pm


For a funny look at the criminal justice system in rural France in the 1450s, rent or NetFlix a 1994 film called “The Advocate” (aka Hour of the Pig) starring Colin Firth, Nicole Williamson, Donals Pleasance and Ian Holmes.
It’s kind of like “Tom Jones” meets “Law & Order”. The lawyer (Firth) defends suspected witches and animals, and you see something of how the aristocracy was involved in the justice system – for good or ill.
I think it’s generally accurate – I know that animals were held responsible for their misdeeds even in early America – but I wonder if Sandra Miesel would have an opinion on its accuracy.



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Julia

posted January 31, 2006 at 1:08 pm


FYI
Here’s the site at Amazon for The Advocate which is available now on DVD. I forgot it also dealt with persecution of Jews, the Cathars, and a lot of other stuff going on at the time.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/630340717X/103-5479493-6901404?v=glance



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Tom Haessler

posted January 31, 2006 at 1:38 pm


Imagine that! Our Lady meditating on the fifth glorious mystery while nursing the infant Jesus! Maybe her infused knowledge extended to the luminous mysteries as well. Isn’t Catholicism fun? So many mysteries wrapped up in mysteries. I love it. LOL
Yes, Sandra is right! THE SEXUALITY OF CHRIST is a wonderful read.
Sandra, I know you’re focused on Church History, but you’re no slouch when it comes to submitting to Catholic teachings as well and are aware of the current theological scene. Do you believe as a faithful Catholic that we are required to believe that the Holy Spirit approved (or approves) of burning heretics?



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Caroline Gissler

posted January 31, 2006 at 4:09 pm


When I consider at least the later medieval crucifixes and paintings of saints kneeling before crucifixs and folks contemplating crucifixes, and the like, the disconnects overwhelm me. Didn’t the sight of the crucified in art so horrify everybody, including canonized saints and high churchmen, that no way but no way would they support inflict.ing physical pain on people? And as to the role of the state, interdicting a state that inflicted torture would have made more sense than the political use of interdicts.
Or conversely, is it possible that the depiction of crucifixion and other tortures of the saints acutually hardened people, made them insensitive to human suffering? Burning people at the stake, all sorts of tortures, side by side with devotion to a sweet and loving Virgin Mary totally baffle me. Were these pious Christians, yes, Catholics, crazy? I am very bad with disconnects. Neither modern ones nor ancient ones especially if they are going on within the same person as they often did and do.
And given what He went through Himself, no way would I ever believe that Jesus would support and not condemn any human being’s torturing any other human being for whatever reason And now I am going to hear about Fatima visions of hell. And as for Mary, after what she witnessed, can anyone imagine that the woman to whom the Magnificat is attributed, would not positively denounce torture without quoting “whatever you shall bind” etc. as an excuse, as if her Son gave His Church a bank check to exercise any savagery, any stupidity under his aegis and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit until He returned . It isn’t our hard to live by sexual morality which is going to shrink the Church should shrinkage happen, but some of this other sheer nonsense which we seem driven to defend not by the Holy Spirit but just human fear.



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Liam

posted January 31, 2006 at 5:02 pm


I think Sandra might be better able to address the issue of emotional “hardening” — also relating to the frequent experience of stillbirths and childhood death, et cet. — but I think that the evidence is pretty much that things varied over time and place, and that it is really hard to make the kind of generalizations historians once comfortably (even blithely) made about the pre-modern vs. modern sensibility.
I should say that the literature from which we can draw inferences in this regard is limited in a variety of ways. First, the record favors testimony of the literate over the non-literate. Second, the evolution of the voice of the “individual” among that literate group — especially in correspondence with one another –was largely a fruit of the 11th and 12th centuries.
That being said, the evidence of our own times suggests that times of masssive deprivation, oppression and cruelty are felt and experienced in different ways in different places by different people. Think: Armenia, Russia, Poland, Germany, China, Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan. Et cet.



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Sandra Miesel

posted January 31, 2006 at 8:20 pm


Yes, Liam, historians are now senstive about how they interpret past mentalities. For instance, the oft-repeated notion that people in pre-Modern Europe didn’t have much feeling for young children because so many of them died was demolished long ago but still gets into popular discourse and undergrad courses. Trying to tweak data out of the past is a challenge because the usual sources aren’t much help. Some places where attitudes can be observed are in between the lines in saints’ lives, miracle stories, coroner’s reports, devotional practices etc.
As for attitudes towards pain, we’re spoilt by comfort even compared to Americans a century ago. Ancient and medieval Christians admired and used horrific penances. The Late Middle Ages liked gruesome crucifixes as a means of inspiring pity and gratitude in themselves. Such art hammered home the vunerable humanity of Christ better than regal Romanesque crucifixes had. Cruel and unusual punishments for criminals just didn’t faze them.
I should state that I’m a student of Church history, not a theologian. My formal classes in theology ended 45 years ago. But I am pretty well read in the literature of the witch craze. To see what Church authorities did and how they justified it (witchcraft being the “crimen exceptum”)is truly nauseating. For may pains in researching this material and writing about it, a Catholic apologist denounced me for attributing evil to the Church. Well, I certainly hope God wasn’t happy with their deeds!
Animals used for bestiality were supposed to be burnt with the human offender. (The Spanish Inquisition had about two dozen donkey-sodomizers burnt in Aragon.) But I was told of a case where the donkey was spared because his owner argued that he was “an honest beast of good conversation.” The issue of cannibalistic Irish chickens must await another time.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted January 31, 2006 at 10:26 pm


“The issue of cannibalistic Irish chickens must await another time.”
AWW!



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Sandra Miesel

posted February 1, 2006 at 10:04 am


Well, if you must know, Donald, the old Irish Penitentials consider what should be done if chikens pecked at a corpse. Conclusion: the adults must be killed but the eggs and chicks may be kept. Same rule for cannibalistic pigs.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted February 1, 2006 at 10:39 am


Thank you Sandra!



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James Kabala

posted February 1, 2006 at 11:08 am


In Puritan New Haven, according to David Hackett Fischer’s ALBION’S SEED, a man was charged with bestiality after his sow gave birth to a piglet that seemed to look part human. Apparently one witness claimed to have actually seen the bestiality take place, but since New Haven law, based on the Pentateuch, required two witnesses, the piglet was counted as a second witness. The man was executed, and I believe (this is from memory) that sow and piglet were as well.
Also, two dogs were hanged for witchcraft at Salem.



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