[This is yet another paper resurrected from the archives (see the original, from Internet Archive); originally posted on 4 July 2000. "skyman" = Pastor David T. King: a vocal anti-Catholic Presbyterian pastor and associate of active online anti-Catholic Protestants James White, John Bugay, and Eric Svendsen. Notes added later will be in blue]
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[mostly original introduction] This pathetic exchange took place in the public chat room of the website (Alpha and Omega Ministries) of the prominent anti-Catholic polemicist James White, on 29 June 2000. I think it splendidly illustrates the sad, deluded, bigoted tendencies of many anti-Catholics. When I simply asked for references for the ridiculous historical numerical claims, I was promptly kicked out of the forum (as you will see at the end). Skyman's words will be in purple. Statements of various other Protestant commenters will be in red. One chatter appears to have been a Catholic. His words will be in brown. He, too, was kicked out for ostensibly exceedingly minor "transgressions." My own words (I went by "Bo") will be in plain black. Some extraneous material has been deleted; whenever a comment appears it is unedited. I pick up the discussion after some 20 minutes or so of innocuous, light, non-theological banter.
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[. . . ]
[a prominent Catholic apologist and author of two books and good friend of mine, who had recently been slandered and accused of deliberate deceit by the chat room manager James White]
[I did, in a personal letter later that night, but James White refused to answer the question, stating that we should keep our interaction at a minimum]
[Dollinger was excommunicated after refusing to accept the dogma of papal infallibility, defined at the First Vatican Council in 1870].
You [that's me!] have been kicked off #ProsApologian by RightWing (You
give me evidence of your first) [sic]
Boy, what a show of confidence! I ask for references for such an extraordinary claim, and I get kicked off by the very person I was asking to back up his ridiculous historical assertions.
[Respected non-Catholic historian Edward Peters, in his work, Inquisition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989, p. 87), states:
- The Spanish Inquisition, in spite of wildly inflated estimates of the numbers of its victims, acted with considerable restraint in inflicting the death penalty, far more restraint than was demonstrated in secular tribunals elsewhere in Europe that dealt with the same kinds of offenses. The best estimate is that around 3000 death sentences were carried out in Spain by Inquisitorial verdict between 1550 and 1800, a far smaller number than that in comparable secular courts.
Utilizing these ballpark figures, the claims above are exaggerated by a ratio of either 11,667 to 1 or 33,333 to 1, depending on which grotesque, ludicrous numerical figure is believed. See the link from Van Hove below, and the Catholic Encyclopedia link: section: The Number of Victims. Edward O'Brien ("A New Look at the Spanish Inquisition") writes:
- Fray Tomas de Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor whose very name is now a symbol of ruthless cruelty, actually checked the excessive zeal of the earlier inquisitors in many ways, including the limiting and mitigating of torture. Walsh thinks that torture under Torquemada was no worse than that used by American police in the 1930s. Also, under Torquemada's entire tenure as Grand Inquisitor (1483-1498), 100,000 prisoners passed before his various tribunals throughout Spain. Of this number, less than 2% were executed. In Barcelona, from 1488 to 1498, "one prisoner out of 20 was put to death" (23 executions). Torquemada is not the monster of the Black Legend; still, he was responsible for, as an estimation, between 1,000 and 1,500 deaths. And by burning, the common method for those times.
True, we may not be dealing with Boy Scout leaders here, but these men were far closer to that than they were to Hitler, Mao, and Stalin!
Likewise, Ellen Rice ("The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition") comments:
The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition, a 1994 BBC/A and E production . . . is a definite must-see for anyone who wishes to know how historians now evaluate the Spanish Inquisition since the opening of an investigation into the Inquisition's archives. The special includes commentary from historians whose studies verify that the tale of the darkest hour of the Church was greatly fabricated.
In its brief sixty-minute presentation, The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition provides only an overview of the origins and debunking of the myths of torture and genocide. The documentary definitely succeeds in leaving the viewer hungry to know more. The long-held beliefs of the audience are sufficiently weakened by the testimony of experts and the expose of the making of the myth.
. . . In 1567 a fierce propaganda campaign began with the publication of a Protestant leaflet penned by a supposed Inquisition victim named Montanus. This character (Protestant of course) painted Spaniards as barbarians who ravished women and sodomized young boys. The propagandists soon created "hooded fiends" who tortured their victims in horrible devices like the knife-filled Iron Maiden (which never was used in Spain). The BBC/A and E special plainly states a reason for the war of words: the Protestants fought with words because they could not win on the battlefield.
The Inquisition had a secular character, although the crime was heresy. Inquisitors did not have to be clerics, but they did have to be lawyers. The investigation was rule-based and carefully kept in check. And most significantly, historians have declared fraudulent a supposed Inquisition document claiming the genocide of millions of heretics.
What is documented is that 3000 to 5000 people died during the Inquisition's 350 year history . . . As the program documents, the 3,000 to 5,000 documented executions of the Inquisition pale in comparison to the 150,000 documented witch burnings elsewhere in Europe over the same centuries.
. . . Discrediting the Black Legend brings up the sticky subject of revisionism. Re-investigating history is only invalid if it puts an agenda ahead of reality. The experts - once true believers in the Inquisition myth - were not out to do a feminist canonization of Isabella or claim that Tomas de Torquemada was a Marxist. Henry Kamen of the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Barcelona said on camera that researching the Inquisition's archives "demolished the previous image all of us (historians) had."
Even Henry Charles Lea, the first major American Inquisition historian and no fan of the Catholic Church, says of the calculations of victims:
- There is no question that the number of these has been greatly exaggerated in popular belief, an exaggeration to which Llorente has largely contributed by his absurd method of computation....
(A History of the Inquisition of Spain, volume 4, p. 517)
Lea calls Llorente's guess-work "reckless" and "entirely fallacious." ]
- For further related related reading, see my web page, Inquisition, Crusades, and "Catholic Scandals".