To oppose groups considered “heretical” by the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Innocent III and his successors instituted the Holy Office of the Inquisition, a special court with power to inquire and judge matters of heresy. In 1233, Pope Gregory IX replaced bishops who had previously dealt with heresy with special papal inquisitors recruited largely from the ranks of the friars. Punishment inflicted was very severe. Those classified as heretics were any baptized members of the Roman church who disagreed with any papal pronouncements or church dogma. The Inquisition was effective in the expulsion of the Jews and the Muslims (called Moors) from the Iberian peninsula (Spain)—which partly explains why the Spanish conquerors of the Philippines called the Muslims of Mindanao as “Moro” in disgust.
When an inquisitor arrived in the area, he called for reports of anyone suspected of heresy, sometimes offering rewards to spies who reported suspected heretics. Those suspected were imprisoned without due process to await trial. Trials were held in secret and might continue for years. At the trial, the inquisitor acted as judge, prosecutor and jury, while the accused had no lawyer.
Possible punishments included attending a certain number of masses, wearing specially designed crosses as a symbol of heresy, whipping, or imprisonment. Because the Roman church had power over state, church authorities could call upon the government to use its power against the convicted. Most of those condemned to death were burned at the stake, some were beaten to death or drowned. All this was done in the name of Christ.
It is a historical irony, that if not for the unjust punishments of the Inquisition, the corruption of the papacy, the Crusades, and the invention of the Printing Press, there would not have had a Reformation.
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