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Eight Hundred Years of Glory: A short history of Christianity

Being arrested for witchcraft by God’s church was a no-win situation for the victim. An arrest for witchcraft was a death sentence. First, a suspected witch was brought before an inquisitor and asked a trick question. Asked if they believed in witches, most said "no." This was an incriminating answer because His Holiness, the Vicar of Christ, had said Europe was infested with witches, and one didn't dispute papal authority. So, the answer was enough to convict — and no witch, even if he/she freely confessed, would be spared death the penalty because the bible expressly stated that no witch should live (Exodus 22:18). So, unlike the heretic, who on some occasions after torture, public humiliation, and confiscation of all his/her property, might be allowed to die in prison, the witch was doomed from the beginning to death — if he or she didn't die during the "examination."

Of course, if victims survived the torture of repeated examinations and their lodging in the prison cell, they still had to endure their punishment.

In the early days of the Inquisition, the judges often allow the victim to escape the death penalty by being punished in other ways. For instance, a victim could be locked in public stocks, which was a hellish predicament. Completely helpless, the victim was left to the tender mercies of the assembled mob: slapped, kicked, poked with sharpened sticks, urine and feces dumped on his or her head, or forced into the mouth, poked out eyes, torn-out tongues, stoned, ears cut off, castrated, fingernails and toenails ripped out, fingers and toes sawed off, whipped, etc. But this was in the days when the Church showed a victim mercy. Eventually death was the standard punishment.

When a heretic was sentenced to death, it was by fire because the Church reasoned that it was wrong to shed blood, and burning didn't shed blood. Besides, the Lamb of God had paved the way for these holy, purifying fires in John 15:6 "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." (Also, the bible itself teaches that burning was a godly form of execution: Joshua 7:15, which prescribes burning as a form of execution and Leviticus 21:9, which teaches that a profaning woman should be burned with fire.)

The burning of heretics dates all the way back to a papal statute of 1231, which demanded death by fire, adding that it was to be used universally. (Nigg, The Heretic, p. 220, Reinach, Orpheus, p. 328.) In fact, in the Inquisition’s heyday the pope promised indulgences (remission for punishment) in hell or purgatory for those who provided fuel for these cleansing fires. (Reinach, op.cit., p. 328.) This offer by the papacy wasn't for any religious concern, it was because providing firewood was expensive and the Church was looking for ways to cut costs since the number of victims was increasing according to the Church’s perverse appetite.

There was one technicality to be carried out before someone was actually burned: the Church, in its sanctimonious piety, handed its victims over to the local governments so that God’s ministers could claim that the Church had never killed anyone. The victim’s trial ended with these words: "We [the ministers of Christ] cast you forth from this our ecclesiastical court and leave you to be delivered to the secular arm. But we earnestly pray that the said secular court may temper its justice with mercy that there be no bloodshed or danger of death." (Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty, pp. 168-69.) But, no secular court dared contradict the findings of the Inquisition. No secular court dared let a victim go free — if any judge had dared do so, he would likely find himself before the very men whose judgment he had overturned, faced with a charge of witchcraft or heresy.

When the victim was led to a public place for his/her burning, they were often horribly abused by the assembled superstitious crowd, which often had been whipped up to a state of bloodlust by the ranting of their local priest. But this last abuse was nothing compared to what the victim had already suffered. If the victim was a woman, she usually had had her tongue cut out, or bored through with a glowing hot poker to keep her from telling bystanders that she had been raped by God’s ministers — the official excuse for this practice being that it kept the guilty from blaspheming God during their burning.

One of the most horrible recorded cases of burning is that of an unnamed Jersey woman, who was murdered in a public square in 1562. Being in the last weeks of pregnancy, the morning of her execution brought on labor. As the fire started to crackle beneath her feet, the wretched woman gave birth, after which a godly onlooker scarfed up the unoffending baby and tossed it into the flames beneath its screaming mother’s feet — all this happening while Jesus sat up in heaven on the right hand of his father watching the spectacle!

With that last comment, let us keep in mind as we read these accounts that the victims here were God-fearing, Jesus-loving Christians who undoubtedly cried out in their misery to those gods for mercy and deliverance. Where was this loving deity, Jesus we all hear preached? Well, either he sat in heaven and looked on approvingly, or, like Kenneth Taylor’s translation of 1 Kings 18:27 in the Living Bible, was doing what Elijah said about the god Baal: he couldn’t hear prayers because he was perhaps "sitting on the toilet"! Or, say I, perchance Jesus didn’t hear them because he is but a myth!

Mark Twain once wrote: "During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for 800 years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. . . . There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them still remains."

One of the great tragedies resulting from the wholesale murders of "witches" was the almost total elimination of those who treated illness with natural remedies, which had been passed down through a thousand generations. Essentially the Church taught that the only remedy for illness was touching a holy relic (which the Church sold), or being anointed by a priest with holy oil. Anything else was regarded with suspicion — especially if the ill person recovered from the application of natural medicines. Hence, natural practitioners, most of whom were women, were the first to be arrested and charged with witchcraft. And so, in the cleansing fires of the holy mother Church died thousands of years of cures or treatments for every medical problem known to man. That loss was so great that even today humanity suffers the effect by paying absurdly high prices for chemical remedies, the side effects of which often outweigh the benefits. Oh, we all have so much to thank the Lord for, do we not?

Okay, so far I’ve covered God’s love for heretics and witches inside the Christian torture chambers and dungeons, but all of this was somewhat mild when compared to the Church’s remedy for a problem called the Protestant Reformation. People — hordes of them — countries full of them — were finally reading the bible and thinking for themselves, and something had to be done because people thinking for themselves are dangerous to any organization, be it churches or governments. In other words, the Holy Inquisition had to be taken to the streets on a massive scale. Good Christians everywhere had to be whipped up into a blood frenzy if the Church was to survive.

It is going way beyond the scope of this article to present a detailed history of the whole Reformation, nevertheless it is vital to offer a few significant horrible examples, such as when Pope Pius IV sent his armies into Orange (in the Netherlands) in 1562 to massacre Protestant heretics — the Holy Inquisition having already pronounced a sentence of death for heresy on the whole population. Hordes of merciless Catholic Christian soldiers were sent into the Netherlands with the promise of plunder, rape and torture, AND the promise of an indulgence from his holiness the pope! During the endless months of horror women were raped en masse, hung by their breasts and tortured with fire, knives and a host of improvised devices; men were hung by their genitalia until the helpless organs were ripped from their bodies, all the while being subjected to the love of God with fire, knives and glowing-hot pokers. Men, women and children were dragged behind horses until they died in their agony, or were tied spread-eagle between four horses and ripped apart; children were tortured to death and then hung up as decorations in the city streets — all the while with a priest watching and sprinkling "holy water" on the devices of torture.

On the occasion of their marriage, King Henry II of France gave his wife an unusual gift. King Henry ". . . celebrated the coronation of his wife Catherine de Medici with a bonfire of heretics." (A Brief History of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Peoples, p. 450.) Queen Catherine was obviously delighted with the spectacle, which is borne by her later obsession for punishing heretics, and because it was she who loosed Catholic mobs into the streets of Paris to hunt down their fellow Protestant Christians on St. Bartholomew’s Day (August 24) in 1572. As in the Netherlands, the scenes of mobs publicly raping, torturing, murdering and plundering filled the streets. By the end of the day it is estimated that 70,000 Huguenot men, women, children and babies lay raped, mutilated and dead in the streets. When the Vicar of Christ, Pope Gregory XIII, got word of this great massacre, he held an elaborate celebration, said High Mass, gave special blessings to the murderers, gave great honors to the one who plotted the deed, Queen Mother Catherine, and then ordered a medallion to be struck commemorating the event. (DeRosa, Vicars of Christ, p. 145)

Kallistie on 01/31/2009 01:32

So the pro-life stance is recent. And Pope Palpatine says the 21st century is the culture of death?
This was stomach-turning. Shock I had forgotten how bad it really was, if that's possible.

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