Monthly Archives: August 2013

Welcome to the World

One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.

~ G.K. Chesterton

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     I want to share with you an event in my life that I believe has helped shape me into the person I am today.  After being a somewhat indifferent person for many years over world events, the nationwide tragedy of September 11, 2001 helped me to discover the importance of staying connected to the world around me.

     One year after the attacks on the World Trade Center, an Englishman very causally said these words to me, “Welcome to the world.”  His remark came right after I had voiced my sorrow about the tragedy, and the fact that I use to live in New York City.  I’ve had thoughts about whether or not I sat next to some of these people who died tragically on 9/11; the World Trade Center was one of the stops by train made on my way to work.

     His words seemed cold and callous to me, delivered as they were by a foreigner. He could sense my apprehension by the delay of my response to his reply.  After a short pause he proceeded to explain to me what it was like to live in Europe all your life, where terrorist attacks have been more common;  especially the attacks of the Irish Republican Army on English targets.  We were having dinner together, discussing a business venture and my relocation to England, a prospect I was very excited about.

     After the reality of what the rest of the world had been enduring for some time was brought to my attention, I slowly realized that I had not been very global in my thinking all of my life.  I had become accustomed to thinking only inside the parameters of the North American continent.  My thinking was isolated geographically, and so was my awareness as to the rest of the world’s troubles.

      For example, upon hearing that there was an earthquake somewhere, the thought would immediately send worry and fear into my consciousness.  But upon hearing that the tragedy was somewhere in a remote part of the world I never heard of, a sense of relief and detachment would enter my mind.  As if the tragedy was less a tragedy because it didn’t happen on American soil.  Pondering it now, I can clearly see the callousness in my thinking.

     A few months before my meeting with the Englishman, my company had informed me that they choose me over twenty-two other people to live in England for while they attempted to merge with a German company.  The Englishman, Tony and I, were to attempt to sell our American and German hydraulic systems to the English manufacturing industry.

     I moved to Manchester, England in January of 2003.  This was at the time when our then President George Bush and the Prime Minister Tony Blair had been contemplating an invasion of Iraq.  Talk of war was in the air everywhere I went, pubs, restaurants, museums, you name it!  By March of that year the invasion was underway.

     Being an American abroad at this time was somewhat challenging.  I soon discovered that Americans are not so well liked in the world.  On a trip to Venice, Italy for my birthday, I befriended some Canadian backpackers who told me point blank that if I wanted better treatment in Europe I should tell people that I was Canadian; they weren’t joking.

     Upon my return to Manchester, I was nicely asked to leave a pub by a concerned patron who calmly explained that some of the other patrons are not fond of Americans here, and that in interest of my safety I should go elsewhere.  On the whole, the English were very upset with Tony Blair’s siding in with George Bush.  In fact, everywhere I went, after it was discovered that I was an American, the first thing they wanted to know was whether or not I was a supporter of George Bush and the war in Iraq.  Luckily, for me I was not; this helped ease some of the tension.

    Another thing I noticed while frequenting the many pubs in England, was how well informed the average Englishman is in regards to world politics.  Everywhere I went, everyone one I talked too, from cab drivers, to constructions workers, to pub owners, I was continuously amazed and humbled by their grasp of world events.  I on the other hand felt like the “ignorant American”.

     Eventually my time in Europe came to a close and I was sent back home, but home now seemed somewhat different; actually I was different.  Living in England was truly a humbling experience.  Before I left for Europe, I was a lot less concerned for the cares of the world.  I could very easily be described as the indifferent and self-centered American who just wanted my cable and big screen TV after a hard day’s work.  I grew up during the 1980’s when that type of attitude was prevalent, especially among my generation.  Upon my return home, I found myself paying closer attention to the BBC, as well as global news on CNN.  I no longer shrugged my shoulders upon hearing of tragedy in foreign lands.  I stopped feeling any sense of entitlement just because I was lucky enough to be born in the Land of the Free.  Living in England made me feel part of the global village, a citizen of the world so to speak, where all human life was important and deserving of the highest consideration, no matter what barriers might have been artificially created either by me or anyone else.

~ John Andrew Dorsey

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The Policies and Truths of the Spanish Inquisition

“The Catholic faith is like a lion in a cage. You don’t need to defend it – you simply need to open the cage door.” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

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There is a lot of false information about the Spanish Inquisition still lingering everywhere in the world today.  Newspapers, mass media, and even text books perpetuate these falsehoods and keep them going, handing them down to the next generation. In this piece I will attempt to open the cage door to the truth about the Spanish Inquisition. Today, thanks to unbiased scholars whose works are checked and revered amongst their peers, we can help clear up these misconceptions by checking the historical facts with actual documentation that clearly point out that what we think we know about the Inquisitions is a lot different than what they really were.

An inquisition is the act of inquiring deeply; a thorough investigation.  The Inquisitions were conducted by the Roman Catholic Church to discover and suppress heresy.  Heresy is defined by the Catholic Church as the willful and persistent rejection of any article of faith by a baptized member of the church.  All Catholics are obliged to believe all the teachings of the Church, otherwise they are no longer Catholic. The Churches duty then, as it is now, is to make sure that no self-proclaiming Catholic pervert the teachings of the Church and lead others astray from the truths of the faith.

The common belief amongst most people was that the Inquisition forced millions of people to convert or die, and that the inquisition used extreme methods of torture to force all non-Catholics to convert to Catholicism or be burned alive at the stake.  The truth is much different.  The inquisitions were put in place to protect both guilty and innocent people from the gross injustice of state leaders and mob aggression, establishing a level of justice and order throughout much of Europe.

According to Professor Henry Kamen’s, The Spanish Inquisition – An Historical Revision there was less terror, bigotry, and persecution associated with it than has been previously believed. Another reference was Professor Edward Peters book “Inquisition”; he states: “There was never, ‘The Inquisition’, a single all-powerful, horrific tribunal, whose agents worked everywhere to thwart religious truth, intellectual freedom, and political liberty. That is ‘The Inquisition’ of folklore, martyrology artwork, and post-Enlightenment fiction.”  Other sources I pulled from in my research was a BBC Television documentary titled The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition., and Brenda Stalcup’s, The Inquisition (Turning Points in World History).

I have chosen to focus mainly on the Spanish Inquisition of 15th century Spain.  The Spanish inquisition was instituted to look into the matter of the conversos, who were Jewish and Muslim converts to Catholicism.  None of the inquisitions were started just to round people up and force-feed them the Catholic Faith or burn them at the stake. Inquisitions were always begun in response to a specific problem that was being very poorly handled.

In the year 711 the Muslims invaded Spain and had complete rule of the country until 1492.  By 1502 the Christians reclaim Spain and the rulers issued an order requiring all Muslims to convert to Christianity, and when this didn’t work, they imposed brutal restrictions on the remaining Spanish Muslims.  Many people in Spain were resentful and distrustful of the Muslims and Jews and sometimes formed mobs to attack them, forcing them to convert or die, many converted, but their conversions were regarded with suspicion because they had been forced.  These forced conversions were neither handled nor endorsed by the Catholic Church and yet today the motivation for them is laid solely at the feet of the Church. I must also note that the motivation for the Inquisition in Spain came not from the church, but from the king and queen of Spain who asked for an Inquisition to be conducted.

Professor Kamen notes that, “Taking into account all the tribunals of Spain up to about 1530, it is unlikely that more than two thousand people were executed for heresy by the Inquisition and that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries fewer than three people a year were executed in the whole of the Spanish monarchy.” The flip side to this is that some inquisition officials were unjust and cruel and wrongly punished both innocent and guilty people.  I’m not here to say that the inquisitions were without blame, but I would like to show that by and large the courts of inquisition were the most just and humane legal systems that existed anywhere in Europe at the time.  And they were started to protect people from unjust treatment, not to harm them with unjust rulings.

The majority of people were found to be innocent of heresy and allowed to go free. They were brought to an orderly trial without torture, the evidence was heard and they were found to be innocent and then they were released. Torture was only used in 2% of cases.  In Spain under Queen Isabella’s rule about 15,000 people were convicted of heresy but repented and were accepted back into the Church. Unfortunately, a little over 2,000 people were convicted of heresy and burned at the stake.  There were not as many deaths as the popular press claims. Numbers have often been inflated to as high as 9 million by the popular press, with absolutely no scholarly research. This figure is completely incorrect. A broad range of scholars, many of whom were not Catholic, have carefully studied the Inquisitions.   Now am I saying that those two thousand don’t matter?  No, and I’m not saying that it’s OK to burn people at the stake.

Now here’s how the Inquisition functioned.  The court of inquisition would have priests stay in a town or village for a month or so preaching, teaching and hearing confessions. This was called the period of Grace for anyone who wanted to could confess and be forgiven during this period.  If the people accused of heresy repented that was the end of the matter.  If they did not they would be tried and if found guilty the inquisition officials would decide on the method of punishment.

However, most people were not burned at the stake. Common punishments included being required to perform certain good works such as helping to build a church, going on a pilgrimage, or even participating in a crusade.  Stricter punishments could be fines, whipping with rods and wearing colored crosses.  A guilty person might also be imprisoned or excommunicated in which case they would be handed over to the secular authorities.  The inquisitions didn’t actually execute people, if someone’s sentence was serious they would be excommunicated and then punishment was up to the civil courts.

Torture was NOT used as a form of punishment, but for getting at the truth.  Torture was used as a last resort when guilt seemed probable but there was no other way of being certain of the truth.  Very infrequently, the defendant and sometimes even the witnesses were tortured for a short period not to exceed 15 minutes.  Although it was sometimes ignored, the rule was that no one was allowed to be tortured more than once, and the type of torture could not cause maiming or death or even the risk of death.  But many judges recognized that innocent people would sometimes confess to things they didn’t do while being tortured just so the pain would end. So a lot of the judges would not attach too much weight to testimony received under torture.  Keep in mind that torture existed long before the courts of inquisition and the Church was always leery about allowing it at all.

Another example people give for why the inquisitions were so bad, is that when a person was accused of heresy he wasn’t allowed to know who his accuser was.  It’s true that accusers’ names were usually kept secret; this was done because there had been times when the accuser and his family were threatened or even killed for reporting someone to the inquisition.  However, the court balanced this out by letting the accused person produce a list of all his known enemies.  Then the court would investigate to see if any of these people had falsely accused the defendant.  If the accuser was one of the defendants’ listed enemies, the court would take his accusations with a HUGE grain of salt.

Remember, the inquisitions weren’t perfect, but most of the time the courts succeeded in holding to a legal standard much higher than anywhere else in the world at that time.  Even today injustice exists in our court systems.  Professor Kamen states; “A comparison with the cruelty and mutilation common in secular tribunals shows the Inquisition in a relatively favorable light. This, in conjunction with the usually good level of prison conditions, makes it clear that the tribunal had little interest in cruelty and often attempted to temper justice with mercy.”

So, in conclusion, who do we blame for the Inquisition: Christianity, the Catholic Church? I don’t think so.  Blame human nature, and blame also a propaganda machine that was so effective that “even today it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.”  So thanks to recent scholarship we can help lay aside a lot of the bias and false historical claims about the Spanish Inquisition.  I have quoted notable sources and provided factual and statistical information.  And I want to make this clear, I believe firmly in free will, and I don’t believe that divinely orchestrated gift was properly exercised during this time in history.  However, I also believe in the truth.

~ John Andrew Dorsey

Bibliography

Author: Professor Henry Kamen

Title: The Spanish Inquisition

Publication Info: Yale University Press, July 1999

Edition: 1st ed.

 

Author: Professor Edward Peters

Title: Inquisition

Publication Info: University of California Press; April 1989

Edition: 1st ed.

 

Author: BBC Television Documentary

Title: The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition

Publication Info: BBC Television Documentary

Edition: 1st ed.

  

Author: Brenda Stalcup

Title: The Inquisition (Turning Points in World History)

Publication Info: Greenhaven Press; September, 2000

Edition: 1st ed.

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Communion in the Hand — An Early Church Practice?

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REVISING HELL

Christ with Thorns

Revising Hell

To the editor:

The purpose of this letter is a response to the article posted October 16th featuring filmmaker Kevin Miller’s new documentary entitled “Hellbound?”.  Mr. Miller new movie questions the reality of Hell and just who goes there.  It never ceases to amaze me that someone who is not a trained theologian, or student of sacred scripture would want to take on something as dense and important as the reality of Hell. 

In such cases, the verdict from the untrained secular minded individual is always one of negative in terms of Hell being a real place.  In today’s world most people like to ridicule the biblical understanding of Hell.  They choose to reinterpret Hell as a place only reserved for types like Hitler or Stalin, or worse yet, as in Mr. Miller’s case, they gravitate toward a false idea of universal salvation.

As a child Mr. Miller was frightened about going to Hell. He states that the fear of Hell has stayed with him ever since he became a Christian at 9 years old.  I say that is a pretty healthy viewpoint, however, Gods justice must never outweigh His love.  Mr. Miller thinks otherwise and instead has made a documentary misinforming countless people that Hell is not to be feared.  One thing Mr. Miller doesn’t seem to have a grasp of is that he cannot re-create what has been understood properly for centuries.

In the New Testament, Jesus mentions Hell 28 times, more times than He mentions Heaven.  He mentions eternal punishment for unrepentant sins 90 times.  He also performs multiple exorcisms in the Bible. So to deny Hell is to make God a liar.  Mr. Miller’s objection is that God is so loving and merciful that He would never send anyone to Hell.  The truth is, God never damns anyone to Hell, people damn themselves.

Theology teaches us that God created man to have free will, and free will He takes very seriously.  So seriously that he doesn’t command anyone to be saved.  He leaves open for every person the option of saying no to Him.  God doesn’t trick people into Hell.

The real problem lies, as always, in human beings love for sin.  If you can deny sin exist then you can deny that Hell exist.  A young man asked Jesus once in the Bible what he must do to attain eternal life.  Jesus told him to keep the commandments.  And in case he didn’t know them, Jesus recited all ten of them to him.  People need not fear Hell if they truly love God and keep His commandments.  But you can’t love what you do not know.  We are to seek Him out.  As a Catholic, the Church sufficiently answers the question of what is the purpose of life in this world for me; we are here to know God, to love God, to serve Him in this world and be happy with Him in the next.

~ John Andrew Dorsey

 

Markoe, Lauren. “Filmmaker Asks Whether Hell is Real, and Who

Goes There.” Religionnews.com. Religion News Service, 16

Oct. 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2012.

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Church Militant’s New Blog

Church Militant's New Blog

Church Militant & Triumphant

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August 17, 2013 · 4:41 pm