*STORY OF INQUISITION*
The Burning Times is roughly from the year 1000 to around the 1700s, where countless numbers of witches were killed through the misapplication of biblical texts. Perhaps the most commonly cited biblical verse supporting the killing of witches is found in Exodus 22:18, “You shall not allow a sorceress to live." The Roman Catholic Church which was in power in the Middle Ages in Europe, was often very oppressive. Wiccans today often identify themselves with the time of the witch burnings and judge Christianity based upon the atrocities committed by the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, many Wiccans did not realize that the Roman Catholic Church also persecuted Christians, torturing many of them for not submitting to the authority and rule of Roman Catholicism. In Christianity, particularly in the Protestant Reformation, we refer to this time as "the Inquisition" which was begun by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484. The point is that the Roman Catholic Church does not represent Christianity, and its atrocities committed upon both pagans and Christians is not the true representation of Christianity.
The Inquisition was an ecclesiastical court and process of the Roman Catholic Church setup for the purpose towards the discovery and punishment of heresy which wielded immense power and brutality in medieval and early modern times. The Inquisitions function was principally assembled to repress all heretics of rights, depriving them of their estate and assets which became subject to the ownership of the Catholic treasury, with each relentlessly sought to destroy anyone who spoke, or even thought differently to the Catholic Church. This system for close to over six centuries became the legal framework throughout most of Europe that orchestrated one of the most confound religious orders in the course of mankind. At root the word Inquisition signifies as little of evil as the primitive "inquire," or the adjective inquisitive, but as words, like persons, lose their characters by bad associations, so "Inquisition" has become infamous and hideous as the name of an executive department of the Roman Catholic Church.
All crimes and all vices are contained in this one word Inquisition. Murder, robbery, arson, outrage, torture, treachery, deceit, hypocrisy, cupidity, holiness. No other word in all languages is so hateful as this one that owes its abhorrent preeminence to its association with the Roman Church. In the Dark Side of Christian History, Helen Ellerbe describes how the same men who had been both prosecutor and judge decided upon the sentence of heresy. Once an Inquisitor arrived to a heresy-ridden district, a 40 day period of grace was usually allowed to all who wished to confess by recanting their faith. After this period of grace had finished, the inhabitants were then summoned to appear before the Inquisitor. Citizens accused of heresy would be woken in the dead of night, ordered, if not gagged, and then escorted to the holy edifice, or Inquisition prison for closer examination. In 1244, the Council of Harbonne ordered that in the sentencing of heretics, no husband should be spared because of his wife, nor wife because of her husband, and no parent spared from a helpless child. Once in custody victims waited before their judge anxiously, while he pondered through the document of their accusation. During the first examination, enough of their property was likewise confiscated to cover the expenses of the preliminary investigation. Refusing to confess at the first hearing, saw heretics being remanded to the prisons for several months. The dungeons were situated underground, so that the outcries of the subject might not reach other parts of the building. In some medieval cells, the inauspicious were bound in stocks or chains, unable to move about and forced to sleep standing up or on the ground. In some cases there was no light or ventilation, inmates were generally starved and kept in solitary confinement in the dark and allowed no contact with the outside world, including that of their own family. In 1252, Pope Innocent IV officially authorized the creation of the horrifying Inquisition torture chambers. It also included anew perpetual imprisonment or death at the stake without the bishops consent. Acquittal of the accused was now virtually impossible. Thus, with a license granted by the pope himself, Inquisitors were free to explore the depths of horror and cruelty. Dressed as black-robed fiends with black cowls over their heads, Inquisitors could extract confessions from just about anyone. The Inquisition invented every conceivable devise to inflict pain by slowly dismembering and dislocating the body. Even the very fact of having a charge brought against you, and of being summoned to the Inquisition was sufficient to strike abject terror into the bravest man or woman. For very few who entered the doors of that halls of torment emerged whole in mind and body. If they escaped with their life, they were, with rare exceptions, maimed, physically or mentally forever. Those who did happen to endure the dungeons generally went mad in captivity, screaming out in despair to escape their purgatories. Others willingly committed suicide during their confinement. In the ages of faith, when the priest, was little less than a God himself, a curse from his lips was often more feared than physical torments. To even establish an accusation against a bishop itself required 72 witnesses; against a deacon was 27; against an inferior dignitary was 7, and for non-members of the clergy, 2 was sufficient to convict. Whole communities went mad with grief and fear of the thought towards being denounced to the Inquisition. It spread all over Europe. Men, women, and children, all legally murdered on evidence by a church, which today would only be accepted unless the court and jury specifically composed of the inmates of a lunatic asylum. During the course, defendants had no rights to counsel or advice, and was even denied the right to know the names of their accusers. No favorable evidence or character witnesses were permitted. In any case, one who even spoke for an accused heretic would be arrested as an accomplice. Never would a prisoner of the Inquisition have seen the accusation against himself, or any other. All efforts relating to time, place, and person were carefully concealed. Suspicion alone of witchcraft would warrant torture. Once a girl was nine and a half, and a boy was ten and a half, they were both liable to inquiry. Younger children below this age were still nevertheless tortured to elicit testimonies that could be used against their own parents. A famous French magistrate was known to have regretted his leniency when, instead of having young children accused of witchcraft burned, he had only sentenced them to be flogged while they watched their parents burn. The children of those parents murdered usually were force to beg in vain upon the streets, for no one dared feed or shelter them thus incurring a suspicion of heresy upon themselves. The suspicion was sufficient enough to drive away even the closest kindred and friends of the unfortunate. Sympathy for them would be interpreted as sympathy with their heresy. The pulley or strappado was the first torture of the Inquisition usually applied. Executioners would hoist the victim up to the ceiling using a rope with their hands tied securely behind their back. They were then suspended about six feet from the floor. In this position, heavy iron weights, usually amounting to about 45 kg, were attached to their feet. The executioners would then pull on the rope, then suddenly allowing it to slack causing the victim to fall. The rapid descent would then come to an abrupt stop, bewildering every joint and nerve in the system. In most cases it entailed dislocation. This process was repeated again and again heavier and more intense until the culprit confessed or became unconscious. Christian Monks would stand by to record any confessions, with even records today displaying the transformation of the monks steady handwriting to vigorous shaking after they recanted inside the dungeons. If a relapsed heretic refused to recant and endure the torture, the contumacious sufferer was then carried to the scaffold and his body bound to a wooden cross. There the executioner, with a bar of iron, would break each leg and arm in two places and left to die. If the heretic was slow to expire, the executioner would then partake to strangulation, and their body was bound to a stake and burnt outside. At the close of the 12th century, heresy was spreading rapidly in Southern France. Papal legates were sent by Pope Innocent III into the disaffected district to increase the severity of repressive measures against the Waldenses. In 1200, Peter of Castelnau was made associate inquisitor for Southern France. The powers of the papal legates were increased so as to bring non-compliant bishops within the net. Diego, bishops of Osma, and Dominec came onto the scene. In 1206, Peter and Raoul went as spies among the Albigenses. Count Raymond of Toulouse abased himself in 1207, before Peter promised to extirpate the heretics he had defended. Dominec advised a crusade against the Albigenses. The pope's inquisitors tried, condemned, and punished offenders inflicting the death penalty itself with the concurrence of the civil powers. The Inquisition was also destined to become a permanent institution. The vigor and success of the Papal Legatine Inquisition assured this. The Fourth Lateran Council took the initial steps with Pope Innocent III presiding. The synodal courts were given something of the character of inquisitorial tribunals. Synods were to be held in each province annually, and violations of the Lateran canons rigorously punished.
The condemned were to be left in the hands of the secular power, and their goods were to be confiscated. The secular powers were to be admonished and induced, and, should it prove necessary, were to be compelled to the utmost of their power to exterminate all who were pointed out as heretics by the church. Any prince declining not to purge his land of heresy was to be excommunicated. If he persisted, complaint was to be made to the pope, who was then to absolve his vassals from allegiance and allow the country to be seized by Catholics who should exterminate the heretics. Those who joined in the crusade for the extermination of heretics were to have the some indulgence as the crusaders who went to the Holy Land. In the face of this inexpugnable record, how futile it is for modern church apologists to pretend that Rome did not shed blood, and was not responsible for the atrocities of the Inquisition. The Council of Toulouse in 1229 adopted a number of canons tending to give permanent character to the Inquisition as an institution. It made or indicated the machinery for questioning, convicting, and punishing. Heretics were to be excluded from medical practice; the houses in which they were found to be razed to the ground; they were to be delivered to the archbishop, or local authorities; forfeiture or public rights could be removed only by a papal dispensation; any one who allowed a heretic to remain in his country, or who shielded him in the slightest degree, would lose his land, personal property, and official position; the local magistracy joined in the search for heretics; men from the ages of 14, and women from 12, were to make oath and renew it every two years, that they would inform on heretics. This made every person above those ages a bloodhound to track to torture and kill. Local councils added to these regulations, always in the direction of severity and injustice. The organic development of the Papal Inquisition proceeded rapidly. It was found that bishops, for the various reasons, would not always enforce the cruel canons of the councils. So Pope Gregory IX in August, 1231, put the Inquisition under the control of the Dominicans, and order especially created for the defense of the church against heresy. Dominican inquisitors were appointed for Aragon, Germany, Austria, Lombardy, and Southern France.
In 1478, the Spanish Inquisition was established with the papal approval of Pope Sixtus IV. The reform and extension of the ancient tribunal which had existed from the thirteenth century was mainly to discover and eliminate Jews and Muslims secretly taking up their beliefs in private. The conduct of this holy office greatly weakened the power and diminished the population of Spain. It was considered the most deadliest and notorious of all Inquisitions, as firstly being, it was the most highly organized and secondly, it was far more exposed and open with the death penalty than that of the papal Inquisition. This holy office became veiled by secrecy, unhesitatingly kept back, falsified, concealed, and forged the reports of thousands of trials. The first two Inquisitors in the districts of Seville were appointed in 1480 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to round up the most wealthiest heretics; the reason for this, was that the property of those accused, were shared equally between the Catholic throne and the Dominicans. The Catholic Spanish government also directly paid the expenses, and received the net income of the Inquisition itself from the accused. According to civil law, people convicted of religious treason were sentenced to death and their goods confiscated while the Catholic Church feasted on their estate. Additional Inquisitors were named, including Tomas Torquemada, who the following year was appointed Inquisitor General for all of Spain. Tomas, who's duty was to organize the rules of inquisitorial procedures in Seville, Castille and Aragon. He believed punishment of heretics, was the only way to achieve political and religious unity in Spain. Those refusing to accept Catholicism where lead to the stake and burnt alive in a procession and Catholic ceremony known as "auto-de-fe'" (act of faith).
The Roman Catholic Church called the Council of Trent partly as a defense against Protestantism. In 1542, Pope Paul III (1534-49) established the Holy Office as the final court of appeal in trials of heresy. The Church also published a list of books that were forbidden to read. Heretical books were outlawed, and searched out by domiciliary visits. Every book that came was scrutinized minutely with the express object of finding some passage which might be interpreted as being against the principles or interests of the Catholic faith. The secular coadjutor were also not allowed to learn to read or write without permission. No man was able to aspire to any rank above that of which he already holded. The church insisted on this regulation as a means to obtaining a perfect knowledge of its subordinates.