In the Name of Christ: A Short Travel into Christianity’s Bloody Past, Part 2

In my previous post, I briefly detailed the murder of Hypatia and the Christian crusades of the Middle East, all done for what appears now to be nothing but senseless reasoning. And that wasn’t the end of the terror found at the bloody end of the Catholic sword of death.

The Spanish Inquisition (1478 CE - 1836 CE)

Today, Christianity paints a portrait of itself with vibrant colors, powerful in strength and adoration. But during the late 15th century, this portrait was painted in the blood of the non-Catholic residents of Spain. The Catholic Church organized these trails as a way to spread the Christian faith more effectively by removing, punishing, or executing those of different faiths. Pope Sixtus order Spain to follow a strict code of conduct regarding the inquisition, but King Ferdinand rather took it upon himself to do so as he saw fit; hasty trails with grotesque methods of punishment.

Those awaiting trial would find themselves subjected to horrendous torture. Many of the applications administered include hanging the victim by the wrists from chains, early forms of waterboarding, and stretching the individual on what is commonly referred to as the rack. As one would expect, many died before reaching trail.

Those who found themselves guilty on charges brought by the court would ultimately face one of two different outcomes. Often, capital punishment was an alternative to a life sentence; burning at the stake was the favorable means of death. In order to bypass a miserable end, many would confess and convert to Christianity, but with that they would face other types of punishment, including social ridicule and rejection – often their families would fall victim as well.

The Spanish Inquisition ended in 1836. After they concluded, over 80,000 charges were brought to an unknown number of alleged perpetrators. Of those perpetrators, a little over 1300 were found guilty and faced death. Indeed it was a sad end to an unnecessary injunction. Rest assured, the Catholic Church became aware of their inappropriate treatment of non-Catholics. In 1994, Pope John Paull II said:

“Hence it is appropriate that as the second millennium of Christianity draws to a close the Church should become ever more fully conscious of the sinfulness of her children, recalling all those times in history when they departed from the spirit of Christ and His Gospel and, instead of offering to the world the witness of a life inspired by the values of her faith, indulged in ways of thinking and acting which were truly forms of counter-witness and scandal. Although she is holy because of her incorporation into Christ, the Church does not tire of doing penance. Before God and man, she always acknowledges as her own her sinful sons and daughters."Pope John Paul II

Not only did they acknowledge the wrongdoings of the faithful during the inquisitions, the Catholic Church also recognized their failings regarding the conquests of Mesoamerica.

Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire (1519 CE)

Christianity played a significant role in the decimation of native life all throughout the Americas. This wouldn’t have been the case had the Spanish Requirement of 1513 not existed. This order, passed on by the Spanish Monarchy, gave divine rights to those traveling to the new world. These “divine rights” included acquiring land and doing away with the natives in any way possible. The document read:

“On the part of the King, Don Fernando, and of Doña Juana, his daughter, Queen of Castile and León, subduers of the barbarous nations, we their servants notify and make known to you, as best we can, that the Lord our God, living and eternal, created the heaven and the earth, and one man and one woman, of whom you and we, and all the men of the world, were and are all descendants, and all those who come after us.

Of all these nations God our Lord gave charge to one man, called St. Peter, that he should be lord and superior of all the men in the world, that all should obey him, and that he should be the head of the whole human race, wherever men should live, and under whatever law, sect, or belief they should be; and he gave him the world for his kingdom and jurisdiction.

One of these pontiffs, who succeeded St. Peter as lord of the world in the dignity and seat which I have before mentioned, made donation of these isles and Terra-firma to the aforesaid King and Queen and to their successors, our lords, with all that there are in these territories,

Wherefore, as best we can, we ask and require you that you consider what we have said to you, and that you take the time that shall be necessary to understand and deliberate upon it, and that you acknowledge the Church as the ruler and superior of the whole world,

But if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him: and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us .” - The Spanish Requirement of 1513

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This unnecessary document was unfortunately read to the natives whom the Spanish faced as they seized Central America. Feeling as though God was on their side, the merciless, tyrannical, and deadly overthrow of native empires began.

Hernando Cortes overthrew the Aztec Empire beginning in 1519. It was a slow and arduous process, but the empire collapsed under the weight of the Spanish forces. Intending to convert the natives to Christianity, the inability to communicate eventually lead to dangerous and forceful means of conversion. If they refused to plead for their souls with God, they would be either killed or enslaved. Since Christianity was new to the Aztec people, it is to no surprise to see most were killed as a result of the foolish and barbarous behavior of the conquistadors. Once the onslaught ceased, almost 240,000 Aztecs lost their lives.

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Christianity didn’t explicitly call for these atrocities, but those who upheld the faith mandated it as God’s will. Sure, we can play with hypotheticals and suggest if it wasn’t Christianity, these villains would’ve used another form of justification. Sadly, that isn’t the case and we must try to understand and accept history as it actually happened: Christianity has been responsible for the enslavement, torture, and deaths of a countless number of lives throughout history.

Photo: Inquisition torture chamber. Mémoires Historiques (1716)

 

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