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How can I defend the Church against the inquisition?

Full Question

My son has left the Church and is attacking it for having had the inquisition. What can I say to respond?


Point out that the Inquisition was intended not to convert people, but to find people who were outwardly claiming to be Christian but secretly practiced another religion, such as people who had become Christian outwardly, but who were still secretly practicing anti-Messianic Judaism, Islam, or Albigensianism, this last being a religion claiming that there are two gods, one good and one evil. The inquisition was thus an attempt to protect the purity of the Christian community.

Also point out that the Protestants had a counter-inquisition that killed Catholics. Thousands of Catholics were killed in England alone after the Reformation struck there. The same thing was true in Ireland and other areas where the Reformation came. John Calvin, for instance, was known for burning people at the stake.

In addition, Protestants were the big witch-burners. Witch burning never caught on in Catholic countries. When the Spanish Inquisition examined the cases of reported witches, it almost invariably concluded that the charges were false and the accused were not guilty. But tens of thousands of supposed witches were burned at the stake, hanged, or drowned in Protestant countries, including the American colonies.


  1. D Reply

    This is a great video with a lot of information regarding the inquisition that will help:
    Catholic Inquisition Myths Busted:

  2. Betty Reply

    Why would you defend it? I especially wouldn’t justify it by pointing out the bad things that others did.

    1. Douglas Reply

      Agree with you entirely………there is nothing to defend. As Christians we should ask for forgiveness when man has undertaken inhuman acts which the Lord has NOT condoned.

  3. Chuck Calderon Reply

    There is no defense, it was evil people using the church for their deeds.

  4. Peter Reply

    Is there something like unforgivable sin according to get church’s teaching?

  5. primo Reply

    “Look what the Protestants did!!, is not a defense at all. It would seem to me that no response at all would be better than this one.

  6. Luke Reply

    The best “defense” for the Inquisitions (particularly the Spanish one (which none of you expect!!!!)), is: look at the time in which they took place. What was society like at that time? Society was violent, the state and the Church were very dependent on each other, and in the case of Spain, during and following the Reconquista, it was very essential to state security to prove that people were who they said they were, and that erroneous beliefs were either corrected or removed.

    Was it necessary? I don’t know, I’m not a 15th c. Spaniard having just reclaimed my homeland from Muslim occupiers. Was it as brutal as has long been claimed? No, not even close. I have seen claims that stated millions of people, many of them innocent, were put to death. The more serious scholarship that has been done, the smaller and smaller the numbers become. The most legitimate estimates, today, put the number of people who were killed via the Inquisitions to be ~3,000-~5,000 over the course of the 350 YEARS that constituted the height of the Spanish Inquisition.

    Here’s the kicker, though. The courts that were set up for the Inquisition were very thorough, used torture at a far, far lower rate than was the norm for European justice systems, and people accused of normal criminal activity would often try and do something that would get them in front of an Inquisitor, rather than the civil courts. He stood a much better chance of receiving a fair trial, and nobody was ever condemned in the name of the Church. All executions were carried out by the Spanish crown.

    To us folks today, the Inquisition seems like a horrible and uncivilized affair, and you know what, it is. The concept of justice and fairness is very different in 2015 than it was in 1515. By no means do I condone what was done, but as a historian myself, I also realize that we cannot hold our ideals against those of a man 500 years ago and expect them to stack up.

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