Monday, September 15, 2008

Discussion on the Inquisition

After some comments in a previous post and a subsequent suggestion to allow a discussion on the much-maligned Inquisition, I have decided, for whatever it’s worth, to direct the discussion, if anyone’s still interested, to this combox.

I’m more interested in discussing the matter at the level of principles, but if people need to get something off their chests then this is you opportunity. Never mind, of course, that the number of victims of Protestant witch-hunts, the liquidations and genocides of the totalitarian states, and the ongoing liberal industrial-scale abortions might exceed by several orders of magnitude any ‘victims’ of the heresy laws. Never mind, either, that any justice system is going to have its excesses and errors. But go right ahead anyway.

But as I said, it’s the principles that I’m interested in. So I would be interested to know whether commenters agree or disagree with the following propositions:

1) The State should never put notorious public heretics to death.
2) The State should never assist the Church in dealing with matters of the supernatural law.
Or, in the language that the Magisterium has used:

1) That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.
(http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma8.php
Dz. 733, condemned error 33. of Exsurge Domine)

2) The Church is to be separated from the state, and the state from the Church
(http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma18.php
Dz. 1755, condemned error 55. of The Syllabus of Errors)

And, while as usual I will only delete comments that contain blasphemy or foul language, you’re only going to waste people’s time if you come out with silly, hysterical things like ‘so if you could you would start rounding up non-Catholics tomorrow, would you?’ The answer is: of course not, since that would be devastating to the common good. The common good is the State’s proper end, and therefore it has the right to tolerate sects as circumstances might require.

So please start your comment with

1) agree (disagree), as the case may be; and
2) agree (disagree), as the case may be.
referring to the propositions condemned by the Magisterium, and then have your say.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

12 comments:

Louise said...

1. disagree

Example:

Peter Singer should be hanged. Hugh Hefner should be hanged. Alfred Kinsey - pervert in a lab coat - should have been hanged... because their ideas and/or actions were/are serious threats to the common good.

2. disagree

Proof:

The modern, secular state already assists with the secularist dogmas of: putting innocent babies (in utero) to death; and hauling its enemies before kangaroo courts (so-called human rights commissions) for so-called "hate crimes." And if it assists one World View (secularist) over another (Catholic), why should it not do the reverse? Particularly since secularism is wrong and Catholicism is right.

Louise said...

As for "the inquisition": given that most people don't know there was more than one inquisition (eg mendicant, Spanish, Roman) the mere lack of any proper historical knowledge in the area is enough to disqualify almost all postmodern Australians from even mentioning the topic, much less discussing it. How can we discuss things hardly any of us knows anything about? Hopeless!

David said...

1. Disagree in principle, though in practice, I'd be very liberal with the exercise of clemency.

Cranmer, having recanted, should have had his sentence lifted.

But Paul Collins, Bishop Robinson and the like do enormous damage to the salvation of souls and ought to be brought to repentence.

2. Disagree, although in practice, in countries such as the US and Australia, the application of state power in support of orthodoxy presents enormous practical difficulties.

Interesting example: Ought the State prevent women who have blasphemously simulated Ordination and incurred a latae sententiae excommunication from publicly holding themselves out as "Catholic Priests", by say, fining them? I see no reason why not.

Zoe Brain said...

1. Agree

2. Agree - with one quibbling exception - the Holy See, where all the citizens of the state are clergy.

Render unto Caesar and all that.

From my readings, the Spanish Inquisition was (at least originally) merely an investigative arm of the Church, designed to gauge the problem of corrupt texts being used to teach the most appalling errors in isolated parts of rural Spain. All it takes is one handwritten copy of a bible omitting the word "not" in one of the commandments, and a barely literate priest guiding a wholly illiterate flock, and you get some situations that may seem hilarious, but were of the utmost seriousness regarding people's souls.

It had no power other than fact-finding. The Spanish church's version of ASIO rather than the Commonwealth Police.

One related question - does a state have the right to enforce one particular sect's religious principles, without actually being an arm of that sect?

I think so - provided there is no hypocrisy involved, that they don't deny it and pretend to be purely secular.

But now we're getting into the legitimacy of states, constitutions, and even worse, trying to formulate a non-sectarian universal code of law. As a Kantian Realist, I believe it can be done, but it's not easy.

Cardinal Pole said...

1) Disagree
2) Disagree

(as you all knew, but I'll start that way in order to stick to my own rules. Disagreement with 2) was what prompted me to start this blog!)

"Cranmer, having recanted, should have had his sentence lifted."

I think it was probably just that Cranmer (whom Cardinal Pole called 'Vicar of Satan') was put to death, given the damage that he had done, regardless of his repeated recantations, which he went back on anyway.

"One related question - does a state have the right to enforce one particular sect's religious principles, without actually being an arm of that sect?"

Although we tend to jump to the question of the relationship between Church and State, the primary question is the relationship between the State and Christ the King, from Whom the State draws its authority. Therefore, quite apart from the question of Church-State relations, the State has the authority to enforce God's Laws whether discerned through the light of natural reason or revealed of God. The late Mr. Michael Davies deals with this very well in the early chapters of The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty and I deal with it in the following posts:

http://cardinalpole.blogspot.com/2008/09/fr-zuhlsdorf-human-rights-and-state.html

http://cardinalpole.blogspot.com/2008/08/how-long-till-cdf-issues-notification.html

Also, Zoe, I'm interested: it's understandable that, since you're a non-Catholic, you think that heretics should not be put to death, but what about the death penalty for other crimes? As a Kantian realist you might be aware that Kant argued for the necessity of the death penalty for murderers as a matter of strict legal justice. Do you agree? (See here for more information on Kant's views:

http://sspx.org/against_the_sound_bites/capital_punishment.htm

MgS said...

1) Agree

I have two reasons for this. First of all, heresy itself implies that the accused heretic subscribes to the same interpretation of scripture and therefore the concept of heresy as their accuser.

Second, I do not accept the underlying assertion that the power of the church extends sufficiently to grant it the right to declare someone's life forfeit.

2) Agree

There are few places in the world where there is sufficient religious uniformity to justify any one faith as being 'official' to the state. This lack of uniformity means that there is unlikely to be an adequate level of agreement upon the issues which various churches would pronounce policy/judgment.

As an aside, to tie back to the historical accounts of church 'inquisition', it is arguable that the church engaged in that activity to shore up its power base through fear and intimidation. The fact that it was able to enrich itself materially at the same time it burned people at the stake is simply a recognition that material wealth was a key part of the power structure.

To answer your basic question to Zoe regarding the application of the Death Penalty in purely secular matters - I argue that it is not per se either punishment nor justice served. The death penalty is retribution, and in my view quite unnecessary.

Cardinal Pole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cardinal Pole said...

You raise some interesting points here, MgS. As to 1), one needs to understand that the fundamental theme in Catholicism is authority. So to call oneself Catholic but defy obstinately the Church’s God-given teaching authority is to be an heretic.

As for 2), you say

“There are few places in the world where there is sufficient religious uniformity to justify any one faith as being 'official' to the state”

But you need to clarify exactly what you mean by ‘official to the State’. As I said in my comment to Zoe, the primary question is of the State’s own religious confession, while the populace’s religious confession is secondary. That is, the State is a juridical and moral person, and is therefore capable of confessing Christ for its own part. The State as a person is distinct from the populace as a set of persons.

“it is arguable that the church engaged in that activity to shore up its power base through fear and intimidation”

I disagree with this completely. An inquisition is primarily about exposing error for what it is, and is thus a service to the Faith, though I don’t deny that some Churchmen might have exploited it for their own advantage.

“I argue that it is not per se either punishment nor justice served. The death penalty is retribution, and in my view quite unnecessary.”

Firstly, the death penalty is most certainly is punishment. Secondly, if you think that retribution is unnecessary, then I have to ask: what is your idea of justice? If we take justice to mean, basically, every person getting what he or she is owed, so that good deeds are appropriately rewarded and bad deeds are appropriately punished, then as far as the ‘bad deeds’ side of the ledger is concerned, justice is retribution. Taking this as a definition, one would reasonably have to agree that the death penalty is mandatory at least for the case of cold-blooded murder. This is because, whereas other crimes can be punished adequately by some combination of imprisonment, financial impost or corporal punishment, there is simply no other temporal punishment than death that can balance the scales of justice in the case of the wanton, culpable taking of another's life. I would disagree with Kant about most things, but his reasoning on the death penalty as a matter of strict legal justice was exactly right.

I suspect that in your notion of justice you would give pride of place to rehabilitation. I do not deny that rehabilitation is a worthy end, but it distinct from and subordinate to justice, which is one of the cardinal virtues.

I would be interested to hear back from you on this.

[The previous comment was my own, which I deleted because of a badly-worded first paragraph.]

MgS said...

(1) I'm quite aware of the authoritarian streak in catholic theology.

However, I also argue that burning someone for the intellectual crime of heresy puts the church into the position of asserting authority which I do not agree it legitimately possesses in the first place.

(2) I disagree intensely with the claim that the state is accountable to some particular entity of faith. In doing so, the state places itself subservient to whomever happens to be the "earthly leader" of a faith, and thereby cedes a great deal of authority to an entity which claims to hold itself apart from the secular world in which the state exists.

(3) My commentary on inquisitions is rooted in the historical record. I don't care how you candy coat it, the conduct of the various inquisitorial bodies in Medieval and Renaissance era Europe was inexcusable, and represents a gross abuse of power and authority.

(4) Regarding the Death Penalty, I stand by my claim that it serves neither punishment nor justice in any meaningful sense.

Punishment suggests that the individual so punished has the chance to learn from their punishment. Clearly such cannot be the case with the death penalty.

Where the more abstract concept of justice is concerned, removing the person from free society does not require forfeit of the person's life to be done effectively.

Which leads me to conclude that it is in fact a tool of revenge and retribution, and I do not believe that is a necessary part of serving justice in general. (Additionally, enough cases of wrongful conviction and punishment have occurred in my own lifetime to make me very skeptical that any human system of justice has the degree of knowable proof to satisfy me that there is no possible doubt that the convicted is in fact the perpetrator of the crime - no matter how heinous they may otherwise be)

Louise said...

I disagree intensely with the claim that the state is accountable to some particular entity of faith.

Even the "faith" that there is no God?

If we consider that a modern society contains a variety of World Views and that two such in Western Society are Catholicism and secularism (which is not neutral at all, but is a definite World View with particular dogmas), why should the state adher to the secular World View and not the Catholic World View?

In doing so, the state places itself subservient to whomever happens to be the "earthly leader" of a faith

Like the leader of The Greens Party?

Zoe Brain said...

Also, Zoe, I'm interested: it's understandable that, since you're a non-Catholic, you think that heretics should not be put to death, but what about the death penalty for other crimes?

Although a non-Catholic, I made a vow at my son's christening to see that he was brought up in the Catholic Faith.

I take vows seriously, more seriously than most can imagine, and I rarely make them. My vow of marriage is the only other one, in fact.

Now as to the Death penalty, I am against it, while realising that in extreme cases, it is not merely justified, but necessary. For example, when there is a real danger that hostages will be taken to ensure the miscreant's release, unless they are executed.

The reason I'm against it is that it corrodes and endangers the soul of the executioner. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

To kill someone in combat is one thing. To judicially murder a helpless prisoner another, regardless of their sin. To do so when the person is innocent may be pardonable on an individual level, but a state that does so commits a mortal sin for which there is no forgiveness, since the state as a person is incapable of contrition.

Assuming someone is so mired in sin they will get instant damnation at death, one should in fact keep them alive as long as possible, hoping for their repentance. I believe that Church Doctrine is that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven through God's grace.

The corollary is that if they do sincerely repent, and are in a state of grace, slaying them is not as bad as slaying the unshriven. But it is still a mortal sin.

And on practical grounds, killing for heresy leads to the 30 years war being repeated. We may yet get that, in the battle with the heresy of radical Islam, but it's something to be avoided.

And, as a non-Catholic, you essentially call for my death, as my personal views are heresy. I have objections to this, and would take whatever practical measures I could against it. I'd use St Augustine as justification.

Cardinal Pole said...

“And, as a non-Catholic, you essentially call for my death, as my personal views are heresy.”

Now Zoe, that is quite unfair. Even if Australia became a confessional state overnight, it shouldn’t start ‘rounding up heretics’ the next day (see my original post). And even in a utopia where the State confesses Christ and everyone under the State confesses Christ except you, you could not justly be put to death since you’re not even a Catholic.

“Now as to the Death penalty, I am against it, while realising that in extreme cases, it is not merely justified, but necessary. For example, when there is a real danger that hostages will be taken to ensure the miscreant's release, unless they are executed.”

But you are setting a utilitarian standard for the use of the death penalty here. The death penalty is licit as an end in itself; I fail to see how it can be licit as a means to another end. That is why I oppose, say, the South-East Asian practice of killing drug runners in order to deter others.

“To judicially murder a helpless prisoner another, regardless of their sin. To do so when the person is innocent may be pardonable on an individual level, but a state that does so commits a mortal sin for which there is no forgiveness, since the state as a person is incapable of contrition.”

Haven’t you got this around the wrong way? And the term ‘judicial murder’ is, though popular, quite unfair. God has the authority to will anyone’s death directly, and He delegates this authority to the State in the pursuit of justice. Also, it would only be a ‘mortal sin’ (and, of course, only by analogy to human mortal sin) if the State knew that the prisoner was innocent.

Now, MgS:

As to your (2), it is not the case that the State “cedes a great deal of authority to an entity which claims to hold itself apart from the secular world in which the state exists”, any more than a secular sovereign cedes authority to the various experts and lobbyists whom he or she might consult. The State’s proper end is the common good; the Church cannot arrogate the corresponding authority to herself (except in the cases of the historical Prince-Bishoprics). There is a distinction, though ideally not a separation, of powers.

As to your (4),

“Punishment suggests that the individual so punished has the chance to learn from their punishment”

No. Rehabilitation suggests that the individual has a chance to learn from his or her punishment. Punishment is strictly a matter of balancing the scales of justice. When there is a conflict between justice and rehabilitation, as in the case of the death penalty, justice comes first.

“removing the person from free society does not require forfeit of the person's life to be done effectively.”

True. But deprivation of liberty is an inadequate punishment for the taking of a life.

“Which leads me to conclude that it is in fact a tool of revenge and retribution, and I do not believe that is a necessary part of serving justice in general.”

I must ask again then: could you please give me a definition, in a nutshell, of what you mean by justice? My own definition is in my last comment.