On May 21, 1559, several Protestants were caught by the Holy Inquisition worshipping in a home. This was considered an offence punishable by death. One of the `heretics’ captured was Dona Isabella, who was a countess and a cousin to King Philip II. The Inquisition tribunal tried to make her recant her faith, but she incessantly refused. After multiple attempts to make her recant, they sent her to the `rack,’ hoping torture would encourage her to renounce her `heresies.’ She happened to be in labor at the time, but the inquisitors decided not to wait for the child to be born because “the child of a heretic would be a heretic, too.” She was strapped to the rack so that she couldn’t move her head or body, and slow dripping water was used to force a sharp linen rag down her mouth until it reached her stomach. Then the rag was suddenly yanked from her throat, internally lacerating her from her mouth to her stomach. Through this all she still refused to deny her faith in Christ alone, so they burned her and her unborn child at the stake. This was just one case of the thousands of heretics tried and executed by the Holy Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Inquisition was the attempt by the Roman Catholic Church to purge Europe of heresy. It was done with the full knowledge and approval of the popes. Why did the Inquisition take place? The goal was to supposedly save the heretic’s soul by forcing him to recant, but if the heretic wouldn’t recant, to at least save other’s souls by executing him to prevent him from spreading his heresies (Spievogel, Vol 1 255). But what does the Bible tell us to do with heretics? A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. (Titus 3:10,11). The Bible says to reject heretics, and that their own heresy condemns themselves, while Roman Catholic tradition, says, in essence “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition execute:”
“Though heretics must not be tolerated because they deserve it, we must bear with them till, by the second admonition, they may be brought back to the faith of the church. But those who, after a second admonition, remain obstinate to their errors, must not only be excommunicated, but they must be delivered to the secular power to be exterminated” (Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologica,” vol iv, p. 90, trans. in Chiniquy, 362).
Why really did the Inquisition occur? It was all about control and money. To understand this, you would have to understand Roman Catholicism doctrine. Catholics are controlled from birth to death by the Roman Catholic sacramental system. They must receive sacraments to be saved, a sacrament being a channel through which one receives God’s grace. There are seven sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church, Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction (Last Rites), but any Catholic can expect to get only six, because the Holy Orders are given to priests upon entering the priesthood, and since priests are forbidden to marry, they cannot receive the sacrament of matrimony. If anyone believed that there were more or less than seven sacraments, or that all sacraments were unscriptural, they were damned as heretics:
“If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law were not at all instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, or that there are more or less than seven, namely baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, order, and matrimony, or that any one of these is seven is not truly and intrinsically a sacrament, let him be anathema [damned]. – Council of Trent, Session 7, Cannon I.
The Church taught the people that they needed the sacraments to be saved, i.e. make it into heaven. However, the whole concept of a `sacrament’ is not mentioned in the Bible at all. If you happened to believe that the sacraments weren’t necessary, you too were labeled a heretic – see Council of Trent Sess. vii, can iv. The sacraments became an effective tool of the Church to control the masses. The Church also taught that the believers had to believe ALL of its dogmas in order to be saved (Chiniquy 234). If anyone deviated from any given dogma, they were anethemized, or branded a heretic, and excommunicated (excluded) from the Church. Since excommunicated persons were forbidden to receive the sacraments, and since they believed that they needed the sacraments to be saved, a sentence of excommunication was, in effect, sentence of eternal damnation. The sentence of excommunication would only be removed if the excommunicated individual recanted the beliefs that they held that were contrary to official Roman Catholic doctrine.
The Catholic Church also claimed authority over kings and other secular rulers, and attempted to control them using the sacraments. If a certain king refused to obey, and couldn’t be convinced by other means, the Church would issue an interdict. An interdict forbade all the priests and bishops in the kingdom from administering the sacraments to the people. The commoners, fearing hellfire, would pressure the king to give in so that the interdict would be lifted. The king, not wanting civil unrest, would then be forced into complying with the Church. Another way the Church brought kings back into line was by telling the nobles under the king that they no longer had to obey their oath of loyalty to the king. Since this usually meant the disposition of the king, the king would quickly comply with the Church.
The sacrament of penance and the dogma of purgatory were also used to control people, as well as being a very good source of income. The Catholic faithful are required to confess their sins to a priest in a ritual called `auricular confession.’ They cannot get forgiveness for their sins in any other way. In order to get forgiveness for their sins, they must perform the penance given them by the priest at confession. The penance given would be anything from saying 50 “Hail Mary’s,” crawling around the church building on your knees, or giving the church a large sum of money. The penance given could also require them to kill heretics or other religious dissenters. Pope Gregory VIII even declared that “the killing of an apostate [heretic] . . . is not murder; nay that it is a good, a Christian action,” and Catholic cannon law agrees (Chiniquy 293).
[Y]ea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
Jesus Christ, John 16:2.
Catholics believe that if they fail to confess even one sin (even if they just forgot), or if they die without completing all the penance that they were assigned, or they die before they could receive the sacrament of Extreme Unction (Last Rites), they will go to purgatory to suffer in fire for their sins for a while until they are allowed into Heaven. The time in purgatory could range from a few days to thousands of years, but there is a way to get out early. Since the doctrine of purgatory cannot be found in the Bible, the Catholic religion was forced to add books (Apocrypha) to the Bible that seem to prove it. If a friend or loved one of the deceased is willing to pay for a special mass for them, they will be released immediately. This mass happens to be very costly, and priests tend to pressure the bereaved into purchasing one (Chiniquy 31,32,187,188). Poor people are brought even further into debt because they think that this will help their loved ones escape from purgatory, while the priests and the Church profit from their superstitions. People can also try to buy their way out of purgatory by purchasing indulgences or relics. An indulgence gives the holder `time off’ of their stay in purgatory, and a relic is an object of admiration supposedly linked to Jesus or the saints that also has an indulgence attaches to it. There is no proof that indulgences work, and most relics have been proven to be hoaxes (They would sell pig’s bones and say that they were the bones of a saint), but the sale of these was a great source of income for the Church. All this profit making wouldn’t be possible without the dogma of purgatory, which all Catholics must believe or be damned as heretics.
Transubstantiation was probably the most bizarre and unbelievable of the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. This doctrine insists that the priest has the power to order God to leave Heaven and make Him enter into a wafer so that the faithful can eat Him! This perversion of the Lord’s Supper claims that the actual body/blood of Christ is contained in the bread/wine, ignoring the fact that Jesus Himself said that it was only symbolic. “This do in REMEMBRANCE of Me” (Luke 22:19). Any one who refused to believe that the bread and wine literally contained Christ’s “body, blood, soul and divinity” but believed that it was only symbolic, was considered a heretic by the Catholic Church. “If any one shall deny that in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist there are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and the blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore whole Christ, and shall say that he is in it only by sign, or figure, or influence, let him be accursed.” – Council of Trent (Sess xiii, can. I, qtd. in Wylie “Book Two” Ch. 13).
Not only do they believe that Jesus’ actual body and soul is contained in their Eucharist wafer, but they also believe that the consecrated wafer should be worshipped as God! Since Jesus is supposedly contained in the wafer, they believe that they should worship the wafer as if it were Him! Why they believe this is such: when the priest performs the `transubstantiation,’ they believe that he completely transforms the bread and wine into Christ’s flesh and blood, and that the bread and wine are completely removed. This is believed despite the fact that it still looks, feels, and tastes like bread and wine! Anyone who refused to believe this was likewise declared a heretic:
If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species Only of the bread and wine remaining-which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema. – Council of Trent, Sess xiii, can ii
After the priest consecrates the wafer, he places the transformed wafer into the center of a sunburst design known as a monstrance. The word monstrance comes from the Latin word monstrare, which means to show or expose to view. They will carry the monstrance in `sacred processions,’ and the people will pray to and `adore’ the “host” as they call the consecrated Eucharist wafer.
“Adoration of Christ in this Sacrament of love must also find expression in various forms of Eucharistic devotion: personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament [the Eucharist], hours of adoration, periods of exposition – short, prolonged and annual (Forty Hours) – Eucharistic benediction, Eucharistic processions, Eucharistic Congresses.”
– John Paul II, 1980 Encyclical Letter on the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist
To the Bible-believing Christian, this is just a bizarre form of idolatry, but if a person believed that it was, they too would be declared a heretic:
If any one saith, that, in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, is not to be adored with the worship, even external of latria; and is, consequently, neither to be venerated with a special festive solemnity, nor to be solemnly borne about in processions, according to the laudable and universal rite and custom of holy church; or, is not to be proposed publicly to the people to be adored, and that the adorers thereof are idolators; let him be anathema. – Council of Trent, sess xiii, can vi
William Hunter was burnt for denying the dogma of transubstantiation, as well as reading the Bible of the local church, and refusing to attend mass (Foxe 231-232). Daniel Rambaut was imprisoned, tortured, and finally stabbed by priests because he refused to believe in “1. The real presence in the host. 2. Transubstantiation. 3. Purgatory. 4. The pope’s infallibility. 5. [M]asses said for the dead will release souls from purgatory. 6. [P]raying to saints will procure the remissions of saints” (Foxe 125). Many other `heretics’ were tortured and burned because they refused to believe the dogma of transubstantiation.
Since it was hard to nearly impossible to prove all these doctrines with Scripture, the papacy banned the laity from owning or reading Bibles. It was declared that only the pope had authority to interpret Scripture. The Bible was actually put on the “Index” of books that Roman Catholics were forbidden to read. If a Catholic layman was caught with a Bible in their possession, they would not be absolved of their sins until they turned it in (“Bible Prohibited”).
However, there were a few fringe groups that wouldn’t give up their Bibles and bow to the pope. These people knew that `sacraments’ were useless because salvation is a free gift of God to all who believe (Ephesians 2:8,9) These groups became much more numerous during the Reformation. When these groups started to spread, the Roman Catholic Church realized that it was losing it’s control over the people. They were forced to use violence to prove doctrines that couldn’t be proven in any other way. This is where the `Holy’ Office of the Inquisition comes into play. They developed the Inquisition to root out heresy in Europe. While there were indeed some dangerous heresies around, such as Gnosticism, (which denied Jesus’ death and resurrection and taught a form of salvation by works) and Aryanism, (which denied the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and Jesus` divinity), most of the people convicted for heresy were either Bible-believing Christians or people who never claimed to be Christian in the first place, such as the Jews and Moslems.
After a heretic had been apprehended, they would be tried for heresy by a court of the Inquisition. However, there was never a fair trial in the Inquisition. Pope Innocent III had given the inquisitors almost unlimited powers. They could sentence someone to death with very little evidence (Foxe 58). An accusation was deemed adequate to guilt (Foxe 41), thus the accused was presumed guilty. The faithful Roman Catholics were told to report even the slightest inclination of heresy, even if it involved their own family members. If they failed to do so, it would mean excommunication for themselves, and they too would be branded heretics, and everyone who helped heretics in any way was also deemed a heretic. The accused were not allowed to face their accuser(s), and anonymous information sent by letter to the inquisitors was considered enough evidence for a conviction (Foxe 41). Since all the property of heretics was confiscated by the Church regardless to whether or not they confessed, many devout Catholics were accused of heresy so that the greedy Inquisitors could get their hands on their money, and “the greater his wealth the greater his danger” (Foxe 60). “For the love of money is the root of all evil. . .” (1 Timothy 6:10).
The inquisition trial was also notorious for using torture to try to force confessions to heresy. The torture was only used three times in the entire trial, but it was so severe that the prisoner usually died or became crippled for life (Foxe 63). When a prisoner first refused to admit to all the charges brought against him by the Inquisition, he was taken out and tortured. If, after that torture, he still wouldn’t confess, they sent him back to the dungeon for about six weeks, before torturing him again. If he still wouldn’t confess, they sent him to the dungeon to wait two months for the third and final torturing. If they survived the third torture without confessing, they would be sent back to the dungeon (Foxe 65), to wait to be executed. There were various means of torture used, but the most common were the pulley, the fire, and the water torture. In the torture of the pulley, the victim’s hands were tied together and a weight was attached to his feet. The rope from his hands was put over a pulley attached to the ceiling of the torture chamber. The victim was then “pulled up to the ceiling, and then let down with a rush to within one foot of the floor,” dislocating the victim’s joints (qtd. in “Antichrist Slideshow”). This torture is repeated over and over. When the victim still wouldn’t confess, he was taken back to the dungeon where a surgeon set his joints. After his joints had set, they would bring him back out to endure the same torture again (Wylie, “Genius and Influence” Ch. 3). The water torture involved the victim’s head being clamped in a vice-like device. Water was dripped onto the victim’s head at a constant one drip per second, with each drop falling on the same place on the head. This quickly caused circulation to be cut off in that place, causing intense discomfort. If this torture was carried out long enough it would result in a long, painful death (“Antichrist Slideshow”). Methods of torture by fire included being slowly lowered by rope and pulley into a fire, and being roasted alive over a slow-burning fire (“Antichrist Slideshow”). Of course the real problem with using torture to extract confessions was that it led many to confess to heresies when they were really innocent, and the inquisitors could never know for sure if the prisoner was telling the truth.
If a prisoner was persuaded to recant his views, he was still imprisoned for life, although he did not have to face execution (Foxe 59). If he refused to recant and was found guilty, he was tortured, and then usually burned at the stake, but this was not always the case. Some were kept in the dungeons for years, while even a few were released (Fox 65).
William Tyndale was one of the more famous victims of the Inquisition. He was burned at the stake for the `heresy’ of translating the Bible into English. He wanted the English commoners to have a Bible in their own language: “I would to God the plowman would sing a text of the Scriptures at his plowbeam. And that the weaver at his loom with this would drive away the tediousness of time. I would the wayfaring man with this pastime would expel the weariness of his journey” (qtd. in Chase 15). In 1523, he requested permission from the Bishop of London, but was denied. At this time, England was under the control of Church of England, not the Church of Rome. However, this was only shortly after Henry VIII had broken with the Roman Church due to his divorce dispute with the Pope. Henry had made himself the head of the Church of England, and he was still king when Tyndale was burned (Chase 18). In fact, the only difference between the Church of England and the Church of Rome at this time was that the king of England headed the former, and the Pope of Rome headed the latter. The Church of England was just as ready to exterminate heretics as the Church of Rome, and Tyndale was even caught with the help of Catholics. After Tyndale’s request had been denied, he moved to Germany, the heart of the Reformation, to work on his translation. He began printing his New Testament in 1526, and smuggled copies back in to England. (The Church of England had forbidden possession of it.) He began work on his Old Testament translation, but before he could finish, he was caught by antagonists of the Reformation (Catholic agents) with the help of English spies and convicted of `heresy’ (Chase 17). He was sent back to England, where he was burnt at the stake on Oct. 6, 1536, crying with his last breath, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
What sort of `heresy’ was Tyndale’s to want the common people to have their own Bible? Well, during the council of Trent, the Catholic Church put the Bible on it’s forbidden books list, and Pope Pious VII centuries later admitted “It is evidence from experience, that the holy Scriptures, when circulated in the vulgar tongue, have, through the temerity of men, produced more harm than benefit” (“Bible Prohibited”). The Scriptures did tend to cause more harm than good to the Catholic religion, because they tended to cause people to realize that it violated Scripture, and then leave it.
When there were large groups of so-called heretics, the Catholic Church often didn’t bother to prosecute them individually. Instead, they would just excommunicate the group, and then pressure the king or lord over them to send troops to exterminate them. For example, when Emperor Ferdinand of Spain established the Spanish Inquisition court, it consisted mostly of Jesuits and accompanied by troops, to try the accused. However, this court rarely tried a heretic, but allowed the soldiers to kill Protestants at will, and then report their carnage back to them (Foxe 95).
Two of the groups of `heretics’ persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church were the Waldenses and the Albigenses. The Waldenses were a group of Christians who would not believe any doctrine that could not be proven with Scripture. This group got their name from one of their leaders, Peter Waldo. (Contrary to popular belief, he was not their founder.) Pope Alexander III excommunicated Peter Waldo and the Waldenses for insisting on preaching against Roman Catholicism. The pope then instigated King Aldephonsus of Arragon to order all his Catholic subjects to kill the Waldenses under pain of condemnation for treachery (Foxe 40-41).
The Albigenses were a group of Christians who were condemned at the Council of Lateran for heresy by order of Pope Alexander III (Foxe 45). (But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you. – Jesus Christ, Luke 6:27,28.) It is unclear to the orthodoxy of this group; however, the Roman Catholic Church is know to destroy the historical documents of her enemies so that future generations will not be able to know what exactly they taught (Gipp 140-141). The `Church’ has also destroyed the records of the persecution that these groups underwent at their hands (Gipp 141). An army was sent to the town of Bezeres, France to exterminate the Albigenses who wouldn’t recant. Since the town happened to be comprised of half Catholics and half Albigenses, the legate (representative of the pope) ordered the troops to “Kill them! Kill them all! Kill man, woman and child! Kill Roman Catholics as well as Albigenses! For when they are dead, the Lord knows how to select his own” (Foxe 47). Sixty thousand were killed in the massacre. (“Ye are of your father the devil. . . He was a murderer from the beginning. . .” Jesus Christ, John 8:44.)
Another group severely persecuted by the Catholic Church were the French Protestants, more commonly known as the Huguenots. In 1561, the king of France issued an edict allowing the Huguenots to practice their religion. However, this edict was soon violated. The Huguenots found themselves suffering worse persecution than before and were forced to take up arms to defend themselves. They were then able to obtain a new tolerance edict, which also was violated in like manner. This process of being granted religious freedom, then having it suddenly taken away was repeated six times: “Six times was the public faith of France plighted to the Protestants, in solemn treaty, ratified and sanctioned by solemn oath; six times was the plighted faith of France openly dishonoured and violated; and six times did civil war, the direct fruit of these broken vows, waste the treasure and the blood of that nation.” (Wylie “Book Two” Ch. 20.) Each time these edicts were issued, it only led to the Huguenots disarming and becoming less wary of Catholicism, and then sudden persecution, which caught the Huguenots off guard.
The most famous of these persecutions, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, came at the end of the fourth pacification. The pacification leading up to the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was a very insidious one. The Huguenots were given equal rights with the Catholics: “The chiefs of the Protestant party were invited to [the French] Court, caressed, and loaded with honours. The Protestants generally seemed to be taken into special favour, and now shared the same privileges with the Catholics” (Wylie “Book Two” Ch. 20). The deceit lasted for two years, practically putting all Huguenot fears of the Catholic Church at rest. A marriage was arranged between two nobles, the Huguenot Henry of Navarre and Catholic Marguerite de Valois, and all the leading Huguenot nobles were invited to Paris for the wedding. Six days after the wedding, the French soldiers began killing all the Protestants that they could find. Seventy thousand were killed in this atrocity (Wylie “Book Two” Ch. 20). When news of the massacre reached Rome, there was great rejoicings and celebrating there. A special medal was issued to commend the slaughter, and “[t]o the person who brought the news the cardinal of Lorraine gave 1,000 crowns” (Foxe 83). The pope and the cardinals even thanked God for the massacre (Foxe 83)! (Woe unto them that call evil good. . . Isaiah 5:20.)
The most persecuted group of all were the Anabaptists. This group was considered so radical that even many of the more moderate Protestant groups persecuted them. Anabaptism spread very quickly, and this was it’s real threat to the Catholic Church. They were called `Anabaptists’ because they believed that infant baptism was wrong and would `re-baptize’ converts who had been baptized as infants (“Anabaptists”). They took all their beliefs from the Scriptures and they believed that infant baptism was wrong since all the accounts of baptisms in Scripture were of people who were old enough to know what baptism meant. There are no accounts of infant baptism at all in Scripture. Knowing that infant baptism was wrong, they re-baptized converts from Roman Catholicism. Many other Protestant groups persecuted them, because they also believed in infant baptism. The Catholic Church (and others) also accused the Anabaptists of not submitting to the government (Spievogel, Vol 1 378). This is “speaking lies in hypocrisy” by the Catholic Church, since it itself claims that it is above all secular rulers.
Muslims and Jews were also persecuted in the Inquisition, the Jews especially. A Catholic youth once told me that “[he hated] the Jews because the Jews killed Jesus,” and this has been the attitude of the Catholics toward the Jews for centuries. Both of these groups were persecuted because they would not submit to the authority of the pope. They also were tried and executed for `heresy’ if they refused to convert, but how could they really be considered heretics since they never claimed to be Christians?
The Holy Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church was an effort to stem the tide of heresy in Europe; however, the court trials were rigged against the accused, the accused were presumed guilty, not allowed to face their accuser, and often tortured to force confessions. In this age of toleration and religious unity, it is important to remember that the Roman Catholic Church has a history of hatred toward anything not Catholic, be it Christian or otherwise.
If you are Catholic, you know now how your basic beliefs contradict the Bible, and how your Church was willing to kill for those beliefs. Jesus told His followers to “Love your enemies” (Matt 5:44). I don’t know about you, but to me, killing someone is the ULTIMATE EXPRESSION OF HATE toward them.
Your sacraments, confessions, and masses cannot save you. Only Jesus Christ’s FINISHED sacrifice on the cross can save you. Jesus died for YOUR sins, but you must be born again! This does not mean the baptism that you received as an infant, that cannot save. This means repenting (turning from your sins), and accepting as your personal Lord and Saviour. Salvation is a free gift! (Eph 2:8,9; Rom 6:23)
If you would like to be saved, in prayer,
- Admit that you are a sinner and repent of your sins (Rom 3:23)
- Believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised from the dead. (Rom 10:9)
- Invite Christ into your life to be your personal Lord and Saviour. (2 Pet 3:18)
Remember, you can KNOW that you have eternal life: These things have I written unto you. . .that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life. . . 1 John 5:13.
IF YOU ARE a Protestant, the information in this pamphlet may have taken you by surprise. Many Protestants have long forgotten the atrocities committed against their forefathers in the faith by the Church of Rome. Some are even advocating unity between Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church. Former Catholic priest Charles Chiniquy said in 1888 “modern Protestants have not only forgotten what Rome was, what she is, and what she will for ever be; the most irreconcilable and powerful enemy of the Gospel of Christ; but they consider her almost as a branch of the church whose corner stone is Christ” (Chiniquy, “Dedication”). You need to acknowledge that Roman Catholics are not saved and desperately need to hear the true gospel. They need to be told that they need to put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation.
Maybe you’ve known all along that Roman Catholics aren’t saved, but you didn’t want to witness to them for fear of what they would think of you. Woe unto you, for their blood is upon you hands: When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Ezekiel 3:18. It is not to late. If you do witness to them, thou hast delivered thy soul (Exe 3:19), even if they refuse to convert.
This is a time of selling out and compromise. We need to wake up, stop trying to please men, and start pleasing God. If we really loved the Catholics like we say we do, we should try to reach out to them with the Gospel, instead if just sitting back and watching them walk the broad road to destruction. Some are even helping them into the lake of fire by preaching that they are saved. Beware of these false prophets! But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. II Pet 2:1 The field is white unto harvest. Let us reach out to the Catholics before it is eternally too late.