Nobody expects (what really happened during) the Spanish Inquisition!

Nobody expects (what really happened during) the Spanish Inquisition!

I’m not a historian, nor an historian, but I do know there is more to the Inquisition than is popularly believed. My first brush with the truth about the Inquisition came from a discussion I had with my old Acton boss, Fr. Robert Sirico. Knowing nothing about what actually happened, I tossed out the idea that the Church has bad things in its past like the Inquisition. Fr. Robert calmly described that there were excesses, but that the principle was to pursue what the name implies: an inquiry. Specifically, the Church wanted to inquire whether people adhered to heretical ideas. That didn’t seem too controversial to me at the time; it would seem obvious that any organization would want to know whether its members subscribed to ideas that completely undermined the spirit and beliefs of the organization. So, I was on my way to uncovering the truth behind what Everyone Knows about the Inquisition. Catholic Answers’ director of marketing Jon Sorensen blogged recently about a BBC documentary that attempts to fairly analyze what is known about the Spanish Inquisition. The summarized facts about the Spanish Inquisition that he mentions seem supportive of the Inquisition in general. From Alan Shreck’s The Compact History of the Catholic Church: Because of wealth and corruption in the Church, certain groups such as the Cathars and Waldensians were drawing many people away from the Catholic Church in Europe and teaching them to deny the humanity of Christ, to reject the sacraments, and to deny the spiritual authority of priests and of the Church. In response to this, the Catholic Church established, in the twelfth century, a...
Catholic Just War Doctrine and the American Civil War

Catholic Just War Doctrine and the American Civil War

With the recent release Spielberg movie, as well as a recent piece by Mark Shea called Drone War and Just-War Teaching, I thought it would present a nice opportunity to address what is often heralded as one of the greatest human rights achievements in the history of the United States, the Union’s victory in the Civil War. For decades, history teachers nationwide have taught children one of two things, 1) that Abraham Lincoln gave his life to freeing the slaves, and believed so greatly in the cause that he fought a war to free them, and 2) that he started the Civil War to preserve the Union.  That’s all well and good, but upon further examination, it seems Lincoln’s war was less than just. There are many answers given in response to the question, “Why was the Civil War fought?”  There are two popular answers I’ve heard: “To preserve the Union,” and “to end slavery.”   While I don’t consider myself an expert in Civil War history, I have read my fair share on the subject.  The purpose of this post is not to address the historical issues* of the aforementioned answers, but to address them in light of Catholic Just War Doctrine. According to Catholic Just War Doctrine, all of the following conditions must be met for the legitimate (moral) exercise of force: the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; the use...

Ichthys: History and Symbolism

by Jennie Murphy Not a day goes by without my seeing a “Jesus” fish on the back of a vehicle. And while my husband and I have one on our own car, how many Christians really know the history or the statement they are making with this symbol? Deep in the catacombs of Rome, the symbol of the fish adorns the tombs of the buried Christians. These catacombs date back to the time of the first few decades in the second century. One of the earliest writings that the Church possesses regarding the use of the fish as a Christian symbol comes from Clement of Alexandria.  It was in this document that he requested to his readers that they make their seals in the image of a fish or dove.[i] It was also during this time period that the Christians underwent great persecution from the Roman Empire. In order to distinguish friend from foe, meeting places were often marked with the symbol of the fish so that other Christians knew that it was a safe place for them to meet. Tradition also tells us that when a Christian met someone in a public place they would often draw the top arch of the fish in the dirt and wait for the other person to draw the second arch, showing themselves to also be a Christian. One of the modern depictions of this is found in the 1951 film, Quo Vadis. In the movie, the beautiful Ligia, daughter of the deceased king of Ligians, falls for Marcus Vinicius, who is a Roman patrician. On an occasion of meeting Marcus in...

Church Fathers and Catholic/Protestant Consensus

I’ve only heard/read a tiny bit of/about Dr. Francis Beckwith, but he always impresses me. A caller to Catholic Answers Live on the show where he was a guest asked him why so many Catholic converts are swayed by reading the Church Fathers. To paraphrase his answer (question is asked about 20 minutes in), he said that he was surprised at the following: The major issues of agreement among Catholics and Protestants today (monotheism, Jesus’ divinity, Trinity, etc.) were areas of contention among the Fathers, so much so that several Church councils were convened to hammer them out. The major issues of disagreement among Catholics and Protestants today (apostolic succession, Real Presence, penance, justification) were issues upon which the Fathers shared a unified agreement. Interesting to note the importance and effect of the Holy Spirit in guiding these councils. The Council of Ephesus said it, I believe it, case closed! It also highlights what I think is a misperception among non-Catholics about the reason for councils in the first place (and maybe my co-bloggers can correct any errors here). Councils were/are usually called to settle disagreements in the Church; there is not much point in calling a Council to publicly proclaim the truth of monotheism since all Christians believe that anyway. But some people could erroneously conclude that, since there is no historical record of a Church debate on the issue of poly- vs. monotheism, that the question is still...