The Inquisition - St John Brebeuf


by: chris kazun

 Not only from outside the faith

 Islam and the crusades

Threats perceived as coming from within the faith itself

Christianity seen as a stabilizing force in society

Any threats became dealt with severely

Reaction to

Albigensian/Cathar “heresy”

 Mix of Gnosticism and


Two Gods

Spiritual – good

 Physical – evil

All things in physical world are evil and dangerous

 Jesus only appeared to have a human body

 Rejected mass, church buildings, sacraments, marriage, sex, allowed homosexuality and suicide

 Men and women were equal

 Did not recognize secular authority

Tolerated or ignored for over 50 years

Pope Innocent III followed a traditional policy:

 “Heretics are to be overcome by reasoning, not by force.”

Changed when papal legate was killed by a

Cathar/Albigensian follower

 Innocent III called for military crusade – Albigensian


Thousands of Cathars were killed (burning at stake was popular), lands were seized

Lasted 20 years; unable to wipe out Cathars

 Survived underground, like early Christians

Secular rulers became increasingly involved

Begun by Pope Gregory

IX (in 1231)

 Keep secular rulers from usurping Church’s authority

The Inquisition was meant to detect and purge heresy

Instituted special judges

(representatives of pope) – inquisitors

Functioned independent from civil authorities

 Worked in civil system

 Had papal authority

Examined and judged religious opinions and moral conduct of suspicious people

Dominicans and


Chosen because:

 Less likely to be swayed by worldly motives

 Less likely to be pressured by secular authorities

 Well educated in theological and spiritual knowledge

 The Church looked for men who:

 possessed qualities of a good judge

 Were determined to protect and promote faith

 Desire salvation of souls and ending heresy

 Never yield to anger or passion

 Meet hostility fearlessly, but not encourage it

 Not yield to threats, but not be heartless

 Would be merciful in giving penalties

 Would listen to counsel of others, not trust his own opinion to greatly

 Begins with month long “term of grace”

 Chance for people of area to confess sins to inquisitor

 Those confessing of own free will received suitable penance (pilgrimage, fasting, paying a fine, being flogged) inhabitants then invited to accuse anyone suspected of being a heretic

 Could there be issues with this system?

Trial before inquisitor

Swore their innocence on the 4 Gospels

Person had chance to prove their innocence

(not the case in civil trials)

Names of accusers and witnesses were kept secret

Fear of punishment

 more lenient sentence for confession and those who recanted close confinement (with possible curtailment of food) visits of tried men (tried to get confession through friendly persuasion)


 Very last resort

 Okayed by Pope Innocent IV

 Remained controversial

Punishments were largely humane for those who confessed and recanted

Refusing to recant = severe punishment (life imprisonment or burning at the stake)

 Few people were actually executed

Sentence was public, as was execution

From 1249-57, of 306 recorded penalties, only

21 were burnings

Begun by Ferdinand and

Isabella used by state to promote

Spanish unity under


Began as a papal inquisition

 By 1480, Spanish authorities had taken over

Papal sanction, but functioned independently of papacy

Main targets were Jews and Muslims

Lawyers defended accused

If accusations were proven

 Those admitting to accusations offered public reconciliation

 Those denying proven accusations were tortured

Those who refused to recant were burned at the stake

False accusers and false witnesses were severely punished or executed

 methods used definitely violate human rights

Must be careful about placing our values on medieval society

 remember heresy was seen as a serious threat

Truly believed they were protecting the church

While we see punishments and torture as harsh, these were normal in this society

 Civil authorities were more harsh in most cases dealing with heresy

How do people in your society and or your school tend to treat people who have

“unorthodox” views (religious, social, or other kinds of views)?

Relate this to the mindset during the inquisition?