What Were the Burning Times?

Facts and Fiction About the European Witch Hunts

Poganisam and Wicca

By Patti Wigington, Updated August 13, 2018

Medieval Young Lady

CAP53 / Getty Images

We’ve all seen the bumper stickers and the t-shirts: Never Again the Burning Times! It’s a rally cry for many born-again Pagans and Wiccans, and indicates a need to reclaim what’s ours — our rights to worship and celebrate as we choose. The phrase Burning Times is often used in modern Paganism and Wicca to indicate the era from the Dark Ages to around the nineteenth century, when charges of heresy were enough to get a witch burned at the stake. Some have claimed that as many as nine million people were killed in the name of “witch hunts.” However, there’s a lot of discussion within the Pagan world about the accuracy of that number, and some scholars have estimated it significantly lower, possibly as few as 200,000. That’s still a pretty big number, but a lot less than some of the other claims that have been made.

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Malleus Maleficarum, the Medieval Witch Hunter Book

ThoughtCo

The European Witch Hunters’ Manual

By Jone Johnson Lewis, Updated February 16, 2019

Inquisitors at a witch trial.

Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Malleus Maleficarum, a Latin book written in 1486 and 1487, is also known as “The Hammer of Witches.” This is a translation of the title. Authorship of the book is credited to two German Dominican monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. The two were also theology professors. Sprenger’s role in writing the book is now thought by some scholars to have been largely symbolic rather than active.

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A Timeline of Witch Hunts in Europe

ThoughtCo

By Jone Johnson Lewis

Updated February 20, 2020

Saul and the Witch of Endor, 1526. Artist: Cornelisz van Oostsanen, Jacob (ca. 1470-1533)

 Saul and the Witch of Endor, 1526. Artist: Cornelisz van Oostsanen, Jacob (ca. 1470-1533). Heritage Images/Getty Images / Getty Images

The European witch hunts have a long timeline, gaining momentum during the 16th century and continuing for more than 200 years. People accused of practicing maleficarum, or harmful magic, were widely persecuted, but the exact number of Europeans executed on charges of witchcraft is not certain and subject to considerable controversy. Estimates have ranged from about 10,000 to nine million. While most historians use the range of 40,000 to 100,000 based on public records, up to three times that many people were formally accused of practicing witchcraft.

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How many people were killed as Witches in Europe from 1200 to the present?

Greg Laden s Blog, October 8, 2017

The original post generated a lot of comments, including from expert historians who strongly disagreed with my post. I put those comments at the bottom of the post so you can see them. I am sticking to my story that the consideration of people murdered as witches should include the 13th century, and does not for reasons having more to do with quirks of the practice of history than to the behavior of the Europeans at the time. I also maintain that typical estimates accepted by historians are by nature conservative.

Now, on to the original post:

Continue reading “How many people were killed as Witches in Europe from 1200 to the present?”

THE DARK SIDE CHRISTIAN HISTORY / HELEN ELLEBRE

This is simply a book that everyone must sit down and read.
Alice Walker

This book is dedicated to freedom and human dignity.

Contents

Preface i Introduction

ONE Seeds of Tyranny

TWO Political Maneuvering: Making Christianity Palatable to the Romans 

14 

Preface i Introduction

ONE Seeds of Tyranny

TWO Political Maneuvering: Making Christianity Palatable to the Romans 

14 

THREE Deciding Upon Doctrine: Sex, Free Will, Reincarnation and the Use of Force 

30 

FOUR The Church Takes Over: 

The Dark Ages 

41 

FIVE The Church Fights Change: 

The Middle Ages 

54 

SIX Controlling the Human Spirit: 

The Inquisition and Slavery 

76 

SEVEN The Reformation: 

Converting the Populace 

93 

EIGHT The Witch Hunts: 

The End of Magic and Miracles 

114 

NINE Alienation From Nature 139 

TEN A World Without God 165 

ELEVEN Conclusion 185 

Notes Bibliography Index Illustration Credits 

189 208 213 220 

Preface 

In June of 1995 the Chicago Tribune reported that Pope John Paul II had urged the Roman Catholic Church to seize the “particularly propitious” occasion of the new millennium to recognize “the dark side of its history.”1 In a 1994 confidential letter to cardinals which was later leaked to the Italian press, he asked, How can one remain silent about the many forms of violence perpetrated in the name of the faith—wars of religion, tribunals of the Inquisition and other forms of violations of the rights of persons?2 Unfortunately, too many have remained silent. Several years ago I listened in amazement as an acquaintance spoke of how the Christian Church had embodied the best of Western civilization and how it had brought peace and understanding to the people it touched. He seemed entirely unaware of the Church’s dark past. I decided to prepare a short presentation chronicling the dark side of Christian history—a presentation to help balance the perception that organized Christianity has historically lived up to its professed principles and ideals. I assumed that I would easily find all the information necessary for this presentation at the bookstore, but was soon shocked to find so little available on the subject. While historians have certainly written about the dark side of Christian history, their words have largely stayed within the confines of academe. And few have written of Christianity’s role in creating a world in which people feel alienated from the sacred. Why, at a time when so many are searching for deeper spiritual meaning, isn’t 

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Inquisitors Between Two Worlds Jean-Paul Rehr, Université Lumière Lyon 2/CIHAM

[Note: this is the original English version of an article translated to French for Raison Présente to 

appear in Winter 2019-20. Citations should refer to the French version.] 

i. The Problem of Inquisition in History 

“The Inquisition is a subject of so particular a nature, that any one who attempts to write upon it 

with impartiality, will find he has undertaken a very difficult province.” So begins the section on 

Inquisition in the handsomely illustrated eighteenth-century international bestseller, Cérémonies et 

coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde by the Protestants Bernard Picart and Jean Frederic Bernard (in Amsterdam, fleeing the French counter-reformation). In their attempts to “objectively” present world religions, in what is in effect one of the earliest of works of comparative religion, they struggled with the 500-year history of Catholic Inquisitions. 250 years later, the historian Edward Peters remarked in his majesterial Inquisition (1989) that the task was no easier for the modern historian, as the myth and history of inquisition “are closely intertwined, and to extricate one from the other is to touch something that still resonates in modern conciousness and emotion; it also raises the charge that the historian is simply creating an uncomfortable new myth to replace the old”. 

Continue reading “Inquisitors Between Two Worlds Jean-Paul Rehr, Université Lumière Lyon 2/CIHAM”

HOLY HERETICS IN LATER MEDIEVAL ITALY

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appeal of martyrs is grounded in their willingness to violate socio-cultural norms and, as a consequence, become extra- ordinary individuals.1 Some early Christian theologians, such as Clement of Alexandria (d. c.215), believed that all faithful Christians would necessarily break free of the regulations and codes of society and achieve moral perfection through an ascetic lifestyle.2 Not all Christians, however, shared Clement’s opti- mism or penchant for self-denial. Martyrs therefore were, and are, considered exceptional individuals and models of comport- ment for lesser mortals. They remained popular subjects of ven- eration even after the spread of Christianity rendered martyrdom all but obsolete within western Europe. The Middle Ages did produce some new Christian martyrs there: for example, the ninth-century martyrs of Muslim-ruled Co ́rdoba; various Viking victims, such as St Edmund; the ‘holy innocents’, or chil- dren purportedly killed by Jews; and individuals like the mur- dered archbishop Thomas Becket.3 Yet by and large it was not 

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Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses Christian Heresy Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses

Abstract 

Four Church Councils in 1119, 1139, 1148 and 1163 declared the Cathars to be heretics. The Council of Toulouse in 1119 and then the Lateran Council of 1139 urged the secular powers to proceed violently against heresy—they did not. Even so, Cathars were burned or imprisoned in many places, but, William IX of Aquitaine and many of the nobles of the Midi continued to protect them. They valued their industry and integrity in a corrupt world. The French bishops at the Council of Tours (1163) discussed the presence of Cathars in Cologne, Bonn and Liege. They called them Manichæans, a taunt, for they knew they were not, and the Cathars called themselves the Good Christians. From 1180 to 1230, the Catholic Church enacted legislation against heresy, and set up a permanent tribunal, staffed by Dominican friars. It was the Inquisition. 

The Church had great faith in punishment for the body as a cure for rebellion in the spirit. 

Continue reading “Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses Christian Heresy Persecution of Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses”

The Abuse of the Name of the Christ of God

The coming of the Christ of God in Jesus of Naza- reth was announced by the great prophets of God in the Old Covenant – and Jesus of Nazareth came. He brought the teaching of love for God and neigh- bor from the Kingdom of God, from the Sanctum. From the heart of His love and peaceableness, He taught the way back to the Kingdom of God. 

The majority of people did not accept Him and His teachings. Incited by the caste of priests of that time, the people accepted that Jesus of Nazareth was handed over to the Roman state, which had Him crucified. Jesus of Nazareth, who lived among us people as the Prince of Peace, became the Re- deemer of all men and souls on Calvary. The first followers of Jesus of Nazareth lived in aware ness of the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. They strove to live as He had exemplified and taught them. However, a few generations after His murder on the cross through the machinations of the caste of priests back then, began the betrayal of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. An external religion was established – an unholy alliance be- tween the caste of priests and the Roman imperial 

rule – that no longer had anything to do with the original teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but which enveloped itself with the name “Christian.” The sim ple teaching of love for God and neighbor was perverted more and more into its opposite and replaced with dogmas, rites and ritual acts of pagan origin. 

The betrayal of Jesus, the Christ, and His teachings is visible in the trail of blood and suffering that for centuries the so-called Christian institutions have drawn over all the Earth and caused in all cultures. 

Under the abuse of His name, all people and groups who remained true to the original Christian values were mercilessly persecuted by the dominant church institutions; anyone who did not subordinate himself to their doctrine was “eradicated.” 

Under the abuse of His name, robbing, murder ing, betrayal and lying were committed. Popes called for the Crusades and millions of people were brutally slaughtered. 

Under the abuse of His name, people, primarily women, were accused of witchcraft and cruelly tor- tured and martyred. 

Under the abuse of His name, people set forth, allegedly to “proclaim the Gospel,” and thereby whole nations were massacred, their treasures robbed and incorporated into the churches and their allies. 

Under the abuse of His name, churches calling themselves Christian were considerably involved in the emergence of wars, right into the present time. 

Under the abuse of His name, the churches sit on immense riches, while day after day their fellow humans die of hunger by the thousands. 

Under the abuse of the name “Christian,” countless children and youth were sexually abused by priests; in homes run by churches, children were humiliated, violated and maltreated. 

Millions of people, entire peoples and nations, still associate Christ, the Prince of Peace and Redeemer of all humankind and souls, with the crimes and monstrosities that the caste of priests and its deadly vassals have spread all over the Earth for nearly two thousand years. The victims hold Christ responsible for this, because with their misdeeds the wolves in “pseudo-Christian” sheep‘s clothing defiled, and defile, the impeccable name of the Christ of God. 

In many countries of the Earth, with the blessing of the caste of priests, the powers that be invoke Christ while they unscrupulously impose their self- ish, violent and belligerent interests on the backs of the people, the animals, the environment and, thus, the whole Earth. 

Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the All-Highest, did not teach all this, quite the contrary: He came to de- nounce the injustice and falsehood and to teach people the way of peace. 

The works of discord are the works of those who see in Christ, and in all those who know His true teachings and follow Him, the greatest threat to their dark interests. Therefore, they pin their own vile filth – as documented by history – on Him and His true followers, thereby bringing the name of Christ into discredit. 

Thus, the rehabilitation of the Christ of God and His teaching of peace, of love for God and neighbor. 

All these facets of the abuse of His name will be extensively examined in this book, above all the falsification of the teachings of Jesus, the Christ, and its devastating consequences for humankind and for all that lives on the Earth, facets which are 

becoming ever more visible today – the advancing destruction of our all-too-human world. Due to the cover-up skills of the established church institu- tions, many people are not aware of the underlying causes of this destruction. Throughout the centuries, these cover-up skills were also used to prevent people from learning the true significance of the incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus of Nazareth and His Redeemer-deed on Calvary. This will also be thoroughly explored in the following. 

From the Book: The Rehabilitation of the Christ of God

Authors: Martin Kübli, Dieter Potzel, Ulrich Seifert

Prepared: Ana Jurić


14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done

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Lea Rose Emery

233.3k views14 items

It’s hard out here for a pope. See, when it comes to religious history, the list of Catholic Church transgressions makes for pretty uncomfortable reading. Despite exalting virtue and kindness in its teaching, Church leadership has spearheaded a long history of outright unforgivable Catholic actions.

You might remember some of these improprieties from school – the Inquisition, Joan of Arc, and the trial of Galileo should all ring a bell. But not everything here is medieval. Though Vatican violence goes way back, there are a number of disturbing episodes from recent history. Some of this repugnant behavior comes from Popes, some was Church-endorsed, and some, most unsettlingly, was just straight-up regular Church practice.

Dark Church history contains scandal after scandal rife with every vice and taboo you can imagine. When the Church was at the height of its power (at which point it was the most powerful organization in the Western world), it’s safe to say everything went to its head. Combine that with the fact that Church leaders seem to stubbornly resist adapting to changing morality and you’ve got a whole lot of unforgivable moments on our hands.

Systemically Covering Up Tens Of Thousands Of Cases Involving Sexual Misconduct
Systemically Covering Up Tens ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

Remember the time there was a systematic cover up of abuse, molestation, and rape at the hands of priests that went all the way to the top of the Church? A conservative estimate says there were 17,200 victims in the US alone, and this type of mistreatment happened world-wide. When complaints came in, priests and other offenders were transferred, rather than punished. The extent of their actions will probably never be fully understood, because of the decades of cover up.

But the Church isn’t denying it anymore. The archdiocese of Milwaukee acknowledged the severity of the issue and agreed to pay a $21 million settlement to 300 victims. But these types of settlements are few and far between. Luckily, Pope Francis has set up a tribunal to hold the bishops who facilitated the cover up to account. The molestation of children is still happening at the hands of priests, 15 years after the Boston Globe broke the story.

In fact, in August 2018, a grand jury reported that internal documents from six Pennsylvanian dioceses noted that over 300 “predator priests” were “credibly accused” (a seemingly subjective accusation acknowledgement based on the discretion of individual dioceses) of harming more than 1,000 child victims; the alleged violations go as far back as 1947. Due to statute of limitations, only two priests were charged with abusing minors.

In February 2019, however, Pope Francis publicly acknowledged the systemic maltreatment and vowed to combat the problem. He said, “I think that it’s continuing because it’s not like once you realize it that it stops. It continues. And for some time we’ve been working on it.”

The International Union of Superiors General has used the uprising of the #metoo movement to denounce the “culture of silence and secrecy.” With the support of Pope Francis and the pushback from the community of international female superiors, the Catholic church claims to be “working on” overcoming the years of sexual mistreatment by persons in power.

Crusades is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Gustave Doré/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

In 1095, when Pope Urban II made a plea for war with Muslims, armies of Christians in Western Europe took up the charge. The pope promised serfs freedom if they went, galvanizing the masses. In the First Crusade, an army of peasants led by Peter the Hermit was massacred by the Turks. When an army of knights went after them and captured Jerusalem, it was said they massacred Muslims until the streets ran with blood.

This was only the beginning. Waves of the Crusades continued until 1396, marking three centuries of warfare, and incalculable human suffering. Catholics definitely weren’t the only religion involved in this mass violence, but Pope Urban II got the ball rolling. Here’s a nice juicy summary of the sordid catastrophe:

“Taking the heads of slain enemies and impaling them upon pikes appears to have been a favorite pastime among crusaders. Chronicles record a story of a crusader-bishop who referred to the impaled heads of slain Muslims as a joyful spectacle for the people of God. When Muslim cities were captured by Christian crusaders, it was standard operating procedure for all inhabitants, no matter what their age, to be summarily killed. It is not an exaggeration to say that the streets ran red with blood as Christians reveled in church-sanctioned horrors. Jews who took refuge in their synagogues would be burned alive, not unlike the treatment they received in Europe.”

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Pretty Much Everything Done By Pope Boniface VIII
Pretty Much Everything Done By... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Artaud de Montor/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

When you’re such an evil pope Dante reserves you a spot in the Eight Circle of Hell, you definitely get a place on this list (and are probably laughing in heaven right now at the filthy plebs who deigned write this). It’s amazing to think people of this nature were endorsed by the Catholic Church, let alone elected to lead the organization.

Boniface VIII (1230 -1303) was guilty of many horrible crimes that, sum total, make him seem like a sadistic Roman emperor. Among other things, he oversaw the complete destruction of Palestrina, a city that peacefully surrendered. Palestrina was completely razed, and Boniface ordered a plow driven over it to prove it had been reduced to nothing but earth and rubble.

You know priests take a vow of celibacy, right? Apparently, Boniface VIII didn’t take his too seriously. He once had a three-way with a married woman and her daughter, but was even more well known for saying that having sex with young boys was as natural as rubbing one hand against the other. So, obviously, he was raping (or at least fornicating with), children.

To celebrate his many great accomplishments, Boniface VIII just loved erecting statutes of himself. So add hubris to his list of sins.

Burning Joan Of Arc For Dressing Like A Man
Burning Joan Of Arc For Dressi... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

You may know Joan of Arc as a saint, but the Church didn’t always hold her in such high esteem. In fact, at one time, she was pretty much the Catholic Church’s public enemy number one.

In 1429, 17-year-old Joan of Arc, believing God had spoken to her, instigated an uprising to get the English out of France, but some high-powered Catholics who sympathized with the English weren’t pleased. French king Charles VII wisely accepted Joan’s help in his fight against the English, and together, they won some major battles.

When Joan was captured, Charles VII, unsure of whether he trusted her as an emissary of God, handed her over to the Church, which did what Catholics do best, put her on trial for heresy with no evidence. To make things one step more ridiculous, Joan was denied counsel, which was against Church rules. Despite this, she is famed for remaining cool, calm, and dripping with integrity throughout the trial.

Because there was no evidence of heresy, Joan was found guilty of one of the 70+ other charges brought against her, wearing men’s clothes, for which she was burned at the stake in 1431 in front of a crowd of thousands. The Church was determined to get her, and did.

In 1456, Charles VII ordered an investigation into Joan’s trial. The result? She was declared innocent and made a martyr. The Church followed suit and, in 1920, canonized her. Talk about a change of heart. Maybe since all male Church officials were dresses they pretend are robes, they decided it was okay for Joan to dress a little butch.

Burning William Tyndale For Making A Vernacular Bible For The Masses
Burning William Tyndale For Ma is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Foxe’s Martyrs/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

You’d think the Church would make the mass distribution of its core text a main priority. As it turns out, in the 16th century, this was the last thing powerful Catholics wanted.

Scholar William Tyndale, on the other hand, wanted this so badly he went into hiding to translate the Bible into English, so lay people could read it for themselves. The Church was not happy about this, and when copies were smuggled around Europe, Catholic authorities demanded they be burned.

And what of Tyndale? He was captured, tried for heresy for daring translate the bible, and burned at the stake. When Church authorities decided printing Bibles in English was okay, they borrowed a whole lot from Tyndale’s translation. And never apologized.

Slaying Countless Women As Witches Because Pope Innocent VII Was Paranoid
Slaying Countless Women As Wit is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Artaud de Montor /Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Catholic Church wasn’t the only group involved in witch hunts, but it kicked things off with Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches), a doozy of a book written in 1487, after Pope Innocent VIII declared, by papal bull, witches were real and a threat (due to their involvement with Satan). He wanted that sh*t investigated stat, so clergymen Johann Sprenger and Heinrich Krämer (using his Latin name, Henricus Institoris) took up the call and literally wrote the book on witches, Satanists (which were invented for this book), and hunts thereof. And boy, was it a success. It was so popular that, for 200 years, it was second only to the Bible on the sales charts.

The problem? Well, for one, the book was hugely sexist and focused almost only on women, promoting burning them at the stake,  a common punishment for heretics. So who knows how many deaths it inspired; its influence was too huge to quantify. The book is also filled with somewhat dubious information, such as the following facts about witches and Satanists: they stop cows from giving milk; they rode through the air on broomsticks on their way to forest orgies; they ate infants.

Absolving Sins For Cash Payments, Including Sins Not Yet Committed
Absolving Sins For Cash Paymen is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

If one bit of Catholic Church history got drilled into your mind in high school, there’s a good chance it was the selling of indulgences and Martin Luther’s reformation. Now synonymous with money-grubbing, the idea of an indulgence isn’t so bad in theory. According to Church doctrine,

“[an] indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain defined conditions through the Church’s help when, as a minister of redemption, she dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions won by Christ and the saints.”

A little wordy, but potentially inoffensive.

In the 16th century, however, indulgences got out of hand. Pope Leo X had expensive taste and wasn’t above using shady means to satisfy it. Indulgences were peddled as “pay X to absolve you of Y.” Basically, money gets you into heaven. To give some indication of how crazy things got, Dominican friar John Teztel was named Grand Commissioner of indulgences in Germany (so, overseeing indulgence was his only job), where he sold absolution for future sins. So: “Hey, give us some gold, it’s all good if you kill that dude next week.”

If you were poor and ignorant, as most poor people in the period probably were, you basically just believed you were hopelessly f*cked and did your best to prepare for an eternity spent frolicking in the torments of hell.

So what happened? Martin Luther, none too pleased, wrote his 95 Theses, effectively kick starting the Reformation.

Orchestrating The Fall Of The Knights Templar To Appease A Broke King
Orchestrating The Fall Of The is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Made famous again by The Da Vinci Code, the Knights Templar, a stateless military fraternity assembled to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, were the subject of gossip a long time ago. They were endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church in 1129, and were famous valorous service in the Crusades. They were also really good with money, which shouldn’t have been a problem, but King Philip IV of France owed them (and others) a whole lot of it. Philip took advantage of growing fear of the Knight Templar’s power and pressured the Church into dropping the mighty anvil of god down on them.

What the Church did next wasn’t great. In 1307, Pope Clement V had members arrested and tortured, gaining false confessions of heresy. In fact, he got enough such confessions to justify disbanding the order in 1312. Various Knights confessed to spitting on the cross, fraud, and secrecy (which was apparently a crime?), and nobody cared the confessions arose from torture and were recanted afterward. Archbishop of Sens Philippe de Marigny, who ran an investigation into the Knights, had dozens burned at the stake. A fine repayment for all of that fighting in the crusades.

In 2007, a secret document showing Pope Clement V absolved the Knights before later deciding to disband them was published. Historians believe this document provides essential proof that the Church caved under King Phillip’s pressure. Good news for the Knight’s integrity, bad news for the Church’s.

Burning Someone 43 Years After He Passed Because He Upset Some Important Catholics
Burning Someone 43 Years After is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Ford Maddox Brown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

As if having your enemies killed wasn’t enough, Catholics gotta burn the corpses, too. What gives? Trying to outdo what the Romans did to JC?

John Wycliffe (1320 – 1384), famous English theologian and vocal critic of the Church, was a forerunner of the Reformation. Among his many criticisms was a belief the Church should give up its worldly possessions. As you can imagine, not an idea the church was happy to have spread around. Wycliffe also promoted and worked on the first English translation of the Bible, hoping to give people direct access to the word of god. Again, not a fun idea for the Church, which liked its monopoly on power.

William Courtenay, Archbishop of Canterbury, made moves against Wycliffe after retiring (gotta stay busy). Wycliffe’s writings were banned in certain areas, but it didn’t end there. It didn’t even end when Wycliffe died of a stroke in 1384. Instead, in 1415 (31 years after he died), the Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a heretic. Not only did they order his books burned, they ordered his body exhumed and burned. And it took them 12 years to do that. So, 43 years after Wycliffe died, his corpse was torched and his ashes thrown in the River Swift. So much for resting in peace.

Executing Jan Hus For Working Out Some Tricky Theological Philosophy
Executing Jan Hus For Working is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Diebold Schilling the Older/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Church tends to be pretty brutal with its critics, of which the treatment of Jan Hus, born 1372, is one of the best (or worst) examples. A Czech priest, Hus felt the Church, run by humans, who are by nature flawed, must necessarily also therefore be flawed, while the Bible, the direct word of God, had no flaws. He was, therefore, openly critical of Church practices, especially the papal schism and indulgence sales.

So, not very happy with Hus, the Church convened the Council of Constance and invited him to join them. Nothing to worry about, just a wee chat. Or so they said.

Instead of having that wee chat, the Council arrested Hus and put him on trial (and then in jail) for, you guessed it, heresy. He was kept in a dungeon and, when he refused to recant his teachings, was sentenced to death. The Church even refused him his last rights before burning him at the stake. And to think they said they just wanted to talk.

The Joust Of Whores Organized By Pope Alexander VI 
The Joust Of Whores Organized is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Thomas Gun/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Joust of Whores is just one example of the corrupt and ridiculous popes of yore. In 1501, Pope Alexander VI (a Borgia, if that rings any bells), who was known to have some pretty refined hobbies, like watching horses fornicate, took things way over the top. According to historian Tony Perrottet, he invited 50 women to strip at the pope’s table. Then things got weird.

As Perrotet writes: “Alexander and his family gleefully threw chestnuts on the floor, forcing the women to grovel around their feet like swine; they then offered prizes of fine clothes and jewelry for the man who could fornicate with the most women.”

It’s rumored Alexander VI was killed by his son, Cesar. Just to show how truly f*cked up Alexander was, his body was expelled from the basilica of Saint Peter. Why? He was considered too evil for sacred soil.

The Roman Inquisition, During Which Judaism And Love Magic Were Serious Crimes
The Roman Inquisition, During is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Ettore Ferrari/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The level of the Church’s involvement in various inquisitions can be argued. It’s important to remember Pope Innocent IV (ironic name, that) explicitly condoned torture as an Inquisition interrogation technique in his papal bull Ad extirpanda in 1252 (which bull probably deserves its own place on this list). The Spanish Inquisition, most famous of these murder orgies, was carried by Spanish royalty and friars, who were Catholic, but not working directly for, or under direction of, the Vatican.

But wait, kids! Don’t forget the Roman Inquisition, or the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, which was 100% the church’s doing. In 1542, as part of a Counter-Reformation against Protestantism (seriously, didn’t these people have anything better to do than overreact to other Christians who pissed them off?), the Spanish Inquisitions’s gentle cousin, the Roman Inquisition, was born. Galileo and Copernicus were among those questioned. While Church staple heresy was a popular dish during the Inquisition, the menu had a number of options, including blasphemy, Judaism (which is a crime how?), immorality, witchcraft, love magic (yes please), and anything else wrathful Papists could shoe-horn in.

John Bargrave, a  contemporary English writer, described how he was questioned in Latin (rather than Italian) to prevent uneducated guards from understanding what was being said. He was also prevented from carrying books “printed at any heretical city, as Geneva, Amsterdam, Leyden, London, or the like.”

Not as bad as the Spanish Inquisition, sure, but very much related and equally dogmatic, close minded, and power-mongering. A Church specialty. Bonne mort, frères et sœurs.

Imprisoning Galileo In His Home For Years Because He Suggested Science Was Greater Than God
Imprisoning Galileo In His Hom is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Cristiano Banti/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Church and science have a complicated relationship, to put it nicely. In 1633, Galileo Galilei, the father of, like, all science, was put on trial by the Church for saying the sun is the center of the universe and the earth moves around it, rather than the other way around. Which is, you know, true for the most part (sure, okay, the sun isn’t the center of the universe, but still, he was onto something). But that didn’t matter.

Pope Urban VIII was having none of it, seeing Galileo’s statement as horrific heresy. So, 10 cardinals sat in judgment of Galileo, who was threatened with torture, imprisonment, and even being burned at the stake. Galileo, 69 at the time and in a “pitiable state of bodily indisposition,” eventually renounced his beliefs. Because of this, the church went easy on him and, rather than torture, he was subjected to house arrest until he died. What a way to treat the father of modern of science.

And what does the church have to say on the subject now? “We today know that Galileo was right in adopting the Copernican astronomical theory,” Paul Cardinal Poupard, the head of an investigation into the matter said in 1992. So, only 350 years too late.

Cutting Funding For Immigrants Because Of Their Connection To The LGBTQ+ Community 
Cutting Funding For Immigrants is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list 14 of the Most Absurd and Unforgivable Things the Catholic Church Has Ever Done
Photo: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Not all Catholic faux pas come from the past; there’s been some dodgy stuff in modern times, as well (see priest rape bonanza), and the church’s relationship with the LGBTQ+ community continues to be a source of frustration. But here’s a humdinger:

For years, the Church gave thousands of dollars to Compañeros, a nonprofit helping Hispanic immigrants access healthcare, understand laws, and meet other basic needs. That is, until the Church found out Compañeros teamed up with a gay and lesbian rights group, at which point Nicole Mosher, executive director of  Compañeros, was informed their funding was in danger.

Compañeros is but one example of organizations the Church threatens for not falling in line with the most strident dictates of Catholicism. The New York Times explained in 2002, “Since 2010, nine groups from across the country have lost financing from the campaign because of conflicts with Catholic principles.”

On the one hand, of course it’s okay for the Church to withhold money from causes in contradiction with its beliefs. Like, say, an abortion clinic. But cutting off funding to aid the needy simply because of an association with the LGBTQ+ community seems extreme and unfair, especially given Church doctrine on helping the needy and feeding the poor. What’s more, members of the LGBTQ+ community can identify as Catholic and go to church, but can’t be helped by that Church? This is all the more more difficult to swallow when considering the Church’s $1.6 billion stock portfolio.

https://www.ranker.com/list/most-unforgivable-things-the-catholic-church-has-done/lea-rose-emery