Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Inquisition What Do You Know....

In other torture related news, or perhaps a bit of serendipitous timing, historians poring over documents released by the Vatican have come to the conclusion that the Inquisition may not have been as bad as reported, or at least the Catholic Church's role was overstated to some degree.

As reported in The Guardian, "According to the documents from Vatican archives relating to the trials of Jews, Muslims, Cathars, witches, scientists and other non-Catholics in Europe between the 13th and the 19th centuries, the number actually killed or tortured into confession during the Inquisition was far fewer than previously thought.

Estimates of the number killed by the Spanish Inquisition, which Sixtus IV authorised in a papal bull in 1478, have ranged from 30,000 to 300,000. Some historians are convinced that millions died.

But according to Professor Agostino Borromeo, a historian of Catholicism at the Sapienza University in Rome and curator of the 783-page volume released yesterday, only 1% of the 125,000 people tried by church tribunals as suspected heretics in Spain were executed."

As far as the overall numbers of dead, "Other experts told journalists at the Vatican yesterday that many of the thousands of executions conventionally attributed to the church were in fact carried out by non-church tribunals.

What the church initiated as a strictly regulated process, in which torture was allowed for only 15 minutes and in the presence of a doctor, got out of hand when other bodies were involved."

Of course it was unclear what definition of "torture" the historians were using, the traditional one or the newly crafted lenient version as proposed in the Bush administration's recent memo exchanges.

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