Friday, April 30, 2010
Inquisiting the Inquisition
From time to time -- that is when I can take it -- I've been reading accounts of the Spanish Inquisition. Of late, I've been glancing through Henry Kamen's "The Spanish Inquisition - a historical revision." This book attempts a more balanced account of this rather gruesome time in church and secular history, but it's still disturbing reading. Today's passage dealt with the tortures inflicted on heretics, including the Rack (el potro). I'll quote the passage that raised my eyebrows . . .
Foreign heretics were submitted to the same procedure. Here is the case of Jacob Petersen from Dunkirk, a sailor aged twenty who was examined by the tribunal of the Canaries in November 1597. He was stripped and bound, and given three turns of the cord.
On being given these he said first, 'Oh God!; and then 'There's no mercy': after the turns he was admonished, and he said, 'I don't know what to say, oh dear God!' Then three more turns of the cord were ordered to be given, and after two of them he said 'Oh God, oh God, there's no mercy, oh God help me, help me!'
After three more turns, he confessed. While these examples give us some insight into the agony of those who were tortured, it should be remembered that the procedure was often mild enough for very many to overcome it. A comparison with the cruelty and mutilation common in secular tribunals shows the Inquisition in a relatively favourable light. This in conjunction with the usually good level of prison conditions makes it clear that the tribunal had little interest in cruelty and often attempted to temper justice with mercy.
Now, tell me. Can you come up with any better example of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear? You will find no place in the New Testament where God sanctions torturing people to bring them to repentance. Witnessing, preaching, persuading and rebuking, yes. While God Himself will render severe judgment, and eternity in Hell is the final destination of all who reject Him, the severest sanction by the church on earth in the New Testament is censure and excommunication. This is nothing more than ecclesiastical evil, aided and abetted by the state.
Don't think it can't happen again.