Posted on 16 January 2013.
The Inquisition is nowadays regarded as one of the most oppressive religious movements in history. Even though the Catholic Church of today had a hard time admitting the existence of such a terrifying ecclesiastic tribunal (some Catholic authorities are still denying the Inquisition really existed), many people agree that they their confession provided little information about the religious oppression.
Essentially, the more you read about the practices of the Inquisitors and their fight against heresy throughout Europe, the more questions pop out in your head. Let’s present the top ten recursive legitimate questions to which modern society demands answers regarding the Inquisition.
1. What does the term “Inquisition” refer to?
Even though most people think that the Inquisition referred to a single unitary institution, the truth is that it constituted a gathering of the independent tribunals, mostly local. Most of these tribunals were not conducting trials under the authority of the Papacy until much later on, when the Pope implemented a nominal control service. Nonetheless, the rules governing the local tribunals were always in accordance with the laws, culture and political powers of the region.
2. Why was the Inquisition banning books?
During the Middle Ages, the Inquisition was censoring books and pamphlets, most of which shared divergent opinions from the views of the Catholic Church. The Index of Forbidden Books promulgated by the Vatican engulfed numerous valorous manuscripts and additional books were added to it on a constant basis. Even though it was finally abolished in 1966, it is necessary to mention that the current Pope manifested some concerned regarding the bad teachings and seductions present in popular book series Harry Potter. On a side note this view is shared by the Islamist religious leaders.
3. How long did the Inquisition operate in Europe?
Considering that the official implementation of the Inquisition is recorded in the 11th century and the Spanish Inquisition was abolished around the 19th century, the persecution and enforcement of the Catholic religion lasted for approximately 700 years. However, this is just for the section of the Inquisition dealing with the Judaic religion; the Roman Inquisition, meaning the one fighting against the Reformation, ended in the 20th century.
4. How many people were tortured and executed by the Inquisition?
Numerous atheists, humanist and agnostics today strongly believe that the only one entity capable of revealing the real number of the victims who fell prey to the barbaric practices of the Inquisition is the Catholic Church. In spite of the fact that most inquisitors were excellent record-keepers, it appears that most documentations regarding the trials, condemnations and punishments vanished into thin air. On a side note, the few papers remaining from those ages indicate that most of the executions and tortures were carried out in the first 50 years.
5. Did the Inquisition have anything to do with the late modernization of Spain?
At the point of the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish Empire was just as modern as it French and English counterparts. However, once the Inquisition started expelling Jews (many of them highly trained professionals) from Spain and enforced censorships on intellectual inquiries of all kinds, the Empire’s modernization decelerated considerably.