In response to Mr. Elogio Itzab’s letter to the editor on September 20th, I feel another read of my widely-published letter in its entirety will suffice to address his concerns. I would not have taken the time to respond, except for the errors and misrepresentation of the Catholic Church.
In regards to the Church being responsible for the executions of the ancient Roman civil authorities, I must admit this is a new suggestion to me. It seems there may have been a confusion between the civil authorities of Rome and the Roman Catholic Church members who were relatively humble and growing at that time.
To the contrary of Mr. Itzab’s claim, it was actually the early Christians that suffered the torments that he accused the Church of afflicting. Although his error is uncommon, it is understandable that such errors can occur when an attempt is made to rashly judge past generations when we are unable to appreciate the context.
Take for example another error about the Church in his statement: Mr. Itzab repeats the often stated, but rarely cited, phrase of the “thousands upon thousands that were killed…” during the Inquisition.
I must admit it amazes me how fake news of the past centuries continues to have effect. Perhaps the infamous Joseph Goebbels was correct. He was a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, and he is quoted as saying “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” So, it is with the “Inquisition.”
First of all, what Inquisition is being referenced? Different European countries recognized the danger of unchecked erroneous ideas to civil peace and justice. It is true the Catholic Church was involved in exposing the erroneous ideas of the Cathars sect during an inquisition in southern France. The Cathars promoted disregard to civil authority and civil commitments and the practice of starvation of its members who desire “perfection.”
Bad ideas lead to bad consequences and even crimes. Even in the obvious crimes, the Church did not take over the State’s authority to punish the crime.
However, centuries after the inquisitions, enemies of the Church often twisted a narrative to condemn the Church. To promote their propaganda, they would exaggerate the numbers of those penalized and the number who suffered death by more aggressive state authorities, and then wrongfully attribute harsh procedures of the cruel civil authorities to the Church.
One often referenced author of the past who is echoed in many intellectual institutions is Étienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon for his forgery of evidence regarding the Inquisition. His works on the Inquisition were widely accepted and referenced until 1970 when historian Norman Cohn revealed the lies.
This was fake news before we had social media. The so called “thousands upon thousands” of killings of the Inquisition period are only possible if you include numbers from the cruel influences by secular authorities or the thousands of Catholics that suffered persecution in non-Catholic regions during the same period. Ecclesial-run courts, on the other hand, dealt with significantly less people, who were assigned the state conviction of the death penalty.
Were there cruel inquisitors among Church authorities in some places? Of course. As in our own day, there have been individual members of the Church who have caused scandal. The Church corrected and disciplined the clear cases of abuse of power. It is important to note that men who do crimes in the Church do not do so because they follow Church teaching, but rather, because they do not follow Church teaching.
Even in those cases, the Church’s role in the Inquisitions was never to kill persons. Church authorities did attempt to persuade, sometimes aggressively, one found in error as a last resort to protect them from the harsh penalties of the State. Once hardened in error, the Church authorities would acknowledge their inability to persuade and release them to the State with a request for mercy.
It was often ignored, since in most such cases, the crime was seen as a threat, to secular authority in some way, or was considered high treason.
Even though I believe Mr. Itzab’s letter to the editor was more calamities than arguments, I appreciate his passion and love for the Maya and its civilization. I did, however, want to give some added consideration to misleading and inaccurate statements about the Catholic Church contained in his letter.
Fr. Scott Giuliani, SOLT
Pastor of Divine Mercy Catholic Church