A campfire in the woods

Low Points in Christian Ethics: The Inquisition and The Burning Times

How the Roman Catholic Church hunted down people worldwide using torture and murder

There are many fine Christians today, and we know that modern day Catholics have nothing to do with the horrible actions of the Organized Church during the Inquisitions and the Burning Times. Unfortunately, the open-minded Christians are hidden in a sea of hypocrites. In Jesus' teachings while on this earth, we repeatedly saw him wrath and it was always due to hypocrites.

In "The Rabbi's Tarot" by Daphna Moore, she brilliantly speaks out about this: "Righteousness is always expressing wrath. Jesus was constantly fulminating, not at sinners as the Church does, but at hypocrites." Why doesn't the Church follow the example of Jesus and fulminate only at hypocrites? The answer is obvious, because it is the Church itself which makes and encourages hypocrites.

The Witch's Hammer

How could the horrible actions of the Burning Times be carried out in the name of Christ? So many people died, given the choice of "The Lord or the Sword"? Most people "turned Catholic" suddenly! The numbers of victims claimed by the Inquisition "magically" change from an estimated 40,000 to 9,000,000, depending on who you ask.

Sadly enough, in 1484 Pope Innocent VII commissioned the single most influential piece of propaganda that declared any practice even remotely similar to Witchcraft to be a heresy. The Roman Catholic Church commissioned two Dominican monks, Heinrich Kraemer and Jacob Sprenger, to publish a manual for so-called "Witch-hunters." In 1486, the work appeared with the title Malleus Malificarum or "The Witches' Hammer." This became the manual was used for the next 250 years in the church's attempt to destroy the Old Religion of Western Europe. Excepts from it include the following vengeful instructions:

"He must not be too quick to subject a witch to examination, but must pay attention to certain signs which will follow. And he must not be too quick for this reason: Unless God, through a holy Angel, compels the devil To withhold his help from the witch, She will be so insensible to the pains of torture that She will sooner be torn limb from limb than confess any of the truth. But the torture is not to be neglected for this reason, for they are not equally endowed with this power, and also the devil sometimes of his own will permit them to confess their crimes without being compelled by a holy Angel."

Pope standing
Pope Innocent VII declared any practice even remotely similar to Witchcraft to be a heresy | Getty Images

Sprenger and Kramer were the two sexually repressed and twisted Dominican Monks hired by the Vatican, during the Inquisition, to write the Malleus Maleficarum in 1486 or the witch-hunters' guide. This book became known as "The Witch's Hammer", was wildly popular for the next two hundred years, printed in at least 29 editions and translated into German, French, Italian and English, and spread into civic law.

"When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil. Women are intellectually like children." What's written and disseminated through media does have an effect on history. The accusations and portrayal of witches in this hefty bit of very successful propaganda reflected and reinforced the general male hatred, fear, disgust and ignorance of women. Bear in mind that 85 percent of the several hundred thousand people murdered in the European witch craze between 1560 and 1760 were women.

I speak of these two monks being "sexually repressed and twisted" due to the type of torture and cruelties used on women believed to be Witches. Many people only think of the actual burning of "would-be witches," not the torture that took place first, which usually was sexual in nature. Women were stripped to reveal their breasts and private areas during these Inquisitions: hot irons and penetrating devices were used in a sexually perverted way to get women to confess to "witchcraft."

Regardless of the actual number, two things are true: This was a travesty and a low point for humanity, as well as morally and spiritually wrong. Women were not put to death because they were witches, or Goddess-worshippers, or Pagans of any sort. These women were Church-going Christians. They tended to be old widowed women who were perceived as a burden for the community.

Any woman could be a "witch"

During The Burning Times, accusing an older woman of witchcraft essentially meant murdering her and taking her property, making certain that all property women might inherit or be left living on when her husband croaked reverted to male ownership and control. The same basically happened to younger and more out-spoken women who were perceived as a threat to the authorities, sexually promiscuous women, or women whose socio-economic power was a source of envy or fear.

Woman burning a piece of paper with the fire of a candle
Any woman of any age who was a threat to the stability of the church could be accused of being a "witch" | Getty Images

Any woman of any age who was a threat to the stability of the church and the community due to her domineering influence was easily targeted as a "witch." Usually, such women had so many enemies that even other women of the Christian Church (Catholic or Protestant) would turn their backs on these women without a second thought.

A common occurence by fellow Christians was that the form of "witchcraft" these women were falsely accused of was Satanic, not Pagan. The most popular accusation was that they fornicated with the Devil. Under torture, they often admitted to participating in forms of "the black mass" as fantasied by Christian zealots.

Witch Trials resulted in an atmosphere of fear, which was a very effective way of "keeping women in their place." Women living in areas where witch-hunts occurred knew that if they asserted themselves in any way which offended the sensibilities of male authorities, religious or secular, they could be falsely accused of being in league with Lucifer and tortured until they admitted it.

If a woman's friend or relative were accused of witchcraft, and she dared to stand up for them in court, she would run the risk of being accused of being a fellow witch and tortured until she confessed that both she and her loved one were guilty. Even through this period, the female principle, an intrinsic part of male and female, remained.

The powers of women's spirituality, of the long repressed mother Goddess, still refused to die. The new male-oriented religions that separated creation from birth compounded their losses by separating earth from the universe and from the harmony of beginnings, endings, and new beginnings in natural cycles, the Wheel and oneness of life. Instead, non-female religions offered guilt and suffering on earth for the reward of salvation later in heaven. The few saved were usually male, and individual men were installed as intercessors between earth and god.

The spread of Catholicism through genocide

Rumors, superstitions, hatred, and subversive approaches to any form of magic were realized at its height during the Inquisitions of the Middle Ages. In 1320, the Roman Catholic Church, at the request of Pope John XXII, officially declared Witchcraft all earth-based religions and the Old Religion of the Pagans as a heretical movement and a "hostile threat" to Christianity. In the year 1233, Pope Gregory IX instituted the Roman Catholic tribunal (equivalent to a modern Grand Jury) known as the Inquisition in an attempt to suppress and eradicate all forms of spirituality deemed heresy.

Interior of a Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church declared Witchcraft all earth-based religions and the Old Religion of the Pagans | Pexels

Some areas of Europe were not falling to the spread of Catholicism as fast as other parts of the world due to the people's devotion to their own earth-based religions. Realistically, what the Roman Catholic Church did to folk religions and earth based religions was a form of worldwide genocide, excelling continent by continent.

The Church moved throughout the world by force giving each local area of Europeans, Irish, the Norse and the Celts, the choice of taking on the practice of Christianity or to suffer a tortured death in front of one's own family and villagers. This tactic was horrible to carry out in the name of a loving God, and yet it was supported with the same air of festivities when the Romans fed the Christians to the Gladiators and the lions in early Rome.

We can equate Hitler and Germany's carnage to the Jewish Nation with the actions of the Inquisitions of the Catholic Church and the peaceful earth-based religions throughout the world. Being Jewish was the crime of the Holocaust and World War II. During the Inquisition, following the seasonal traditions of the earth, working closely with the land and communing with the Divine without a structure religious institution was the only crime of The Wicca.

The Jewish Nation was Hitler's scapegoat, persecuted for their peaceful religious beliefs with no hope of justice or escape from very public hate crimes. The Wicca was the peaceful earth-based religion of pre-Christian Europe that the Roman Catholic Church used as their scapegoat.

Basically, the "Burning Times" became an opportunity for people of a little power to sentence to death anyone who opposed them in their community under the guise of witchcraft. Socially undesirable members of the townships were quickly accused of witchcraft and evil doings. In addition, an outspoken individual or an especially "opinionated" woman was quickly the prey of the Inquisition.

Religious hate crimes remain

The irony here is that Wicca (pronounced "Witch-eee") gave rise to the term that society now holds as a witch, but is not fairly associated with the term Wiccan, which indicates a person who practices the religious beliefs of Wicca.

The main tenet of Wicca is "An' It Harm None, Do What Ye Wilt", denoting a peaceful religion, and these people were persecuted by Christians in the name of a God who stood for love, compassion and salvation. Unfortunately, when the persecutions ended in the 18th century, the stereotype of Witches as devil worshipers remained for those who were uninformed of the true nature of the Craft.

A witch holding a magic ball in a lake
Wicca gave rise to the term that society now holds as a witch | Getty Images

The Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment 1 states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Currently, in the United States, addition religious hate crimes are still in effect, as many Wiccan teachers have been relieved of their jobs in the school system. Wiccans are not free to wear their pentagram in their place of work without fear of losing their jobs while Christians are allowed to wear their crosses and crucifixes, just as Jews now freely wear their Star of David with pride.