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The sadism of the Inquisition

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6a4e6c6e 7909 49f7 b338 7500097b21ad The sadism of the Inquisition
Torture was officially sanctioned by the Inquisition in 1257 and remained a Catholic Church mainstay for five and a half centuries. The victims in those centuries were literally countless.

The chronicler of Treves reported that in 1586, the entire female population of two villages was wiped out by the inquisitors. Two other villages were destroyed completely and erased from the map. More than 130 persons were burned in a single day at Quedlinburg in 1589. Jurist Henri Boguet said Germany in 1590 was “almost entirely occupied with building fires for witches, and Switzerland has been compelled to wipe out many of her villages on their account. Travelers in Lorraine may see thousands and thousands of the stakes to which witches are bound.”

In 1524, 1,000 witches died at Como. Strasbourg burned 5,000 in a period of 20 years. Savoy condemned 800 witches at one time. French magistrate Nicholas Remy said he personally sentenced 900 witches in 15 years, and in one year alone forced 16 witches to suicide. A bishop of Bamberg claimed 600 witches in 10 years; a bishop of Nancy, 800 in 16 years; a bishop of Wurzburg, 1,900 in five years. An estimated 500 were executed within three months at Geneva and 400 in a single day at Toulouse. The city of Treves burned 7,000 witches. The Lutheran prelate Benedict Carpzov sentenced 20,000 “devil-worshippers.” Even relatively permissive England killed 30,000 witches between 1542 and 1736. The slaughter went on throughout Christian Europe for nearly five centuries — even though the so-called crime was purely imaginary.

Mass burnings on the Iberian peninsula (autos-da-fe) were held once a month on the average, usually on a Sunday or holiday so all could attend. Execution fires were usually kept low, to prolong the suffering. A visitor to Wolfenbuttel, Germany, in 1590 observed that there were so many stakes to burn the witches that the place of execution resembled a small forest. The executioner of Neisse in Silesia invented an oven in which within nine years, he had roasted over 1,000 individuals, including children 2 to 4 years old.

Of all the world’s religions, Christianity has been the most fundamentally sadistic. Its central icon has been that of a dying man attached to an instrument of torture, and worshippers were constantly encouraged to envision his agony. Physical pleasures, on the other hand, were condemned as evil. Spouses were told that sexual activities must not be practiced for pleasure, only for reproduction. Catholic Church priests, nuns, monks and holy ascetics were sworn to lifelong celibacy. Masturbation was severely punished. Wet dreams were said to be caused by female devils called succubi, who were thus stealing men’s souls. Clergymen taught that children should be denied excessive enjoyment of ordinary pleasures like food treats or play, and advocated painful physical punishments for misbehavior.

Clerics also encouraged husbands to beat their wives, since Eve’s original sin sullied all women, who must be harshly restrained. The official manual of the Inquisition, the “Malleus Maleficarum,” stated that “all wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman,” and that witches must be “often and frequently exposed to torture.” Although the rule said torture was to be applied “only once,” that once could be “continued” for weeks or months.

The agonies of hell were constantly described, and, like other lies repeated often enough, became “truth.” The eminent St. Thomas Aquinas, a highly honored pillar of the Church, wrote that one of the greatest pleasures God granted the blessed souls in heaven was a perfect view of the tortures of the damned, for all eternity. Could it be any more obvious that he had the mindset of a sadist?

Why did this depth of cruelty persist for so many centuries? The answer is plain: It was enormously profitable. The Church had devised history’s most successful scheme of licit theft — it immediately seized all the property of its victims, and thus became the richest institution in Europe and later in South America. In a culture ruled by a patriarchal religion, cruelty pays off.

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