The Inquisition (I)


Published by: LA ESPERANZA September 1, 2022

The following article from the newspaper archives of La Esperanza that we transcribe below, was published on November 28, 1856. It is the translation of an original article by the great Louis Veuillot for his publication L’Univers. In it the Inquisition is defended from the criticism of its modern challengers.


The word Inquisition is as new as it is discredited. Its significance is as old as the Church and other human societies, and it will last as long as they last. The Inquisition is known today by the name of law, of public order, and it is operation everywhere in full swing. No society can abdicate the right it has to compel all its members to observe its laws, and to expel them from its bosom when they tenaciously refuse to obey them. There is no private corporation, whatever its nature and purpose, that does not constantly use this right. Every prince, father of a family or head of an association exercises the inquisition; the chairman of a ceremony is an Inquisitor. To dispute this right to the Church, is to question the Divine Wisdom that founded it.

But although the Church always reserves the use of Her right, She has not always used it in the same way. In view of the needs of each age, for which She knows the indication of the divine will, She acts as the disposition of the souls and the needs of society demand it, walking in this way towards Her constant object, which is the salvation of souls, through the preservation and triumph of truth.

If during the first three centuries, when all the powers of the Earth had united against Her, and the Church could not appeal to them for support; who can claim that today there isn’t a lack of habit that these circumstances alone have imposed? The partisan spirit sustains such iniquity, wanting to present as natural and stable a state of affairs from which the Church suffered in agony and from which it begged God to deliver it. Seeing that persecution exalted pain and formed martyrs, one wants to forget that it also gave rise to apostasy. A situation always considered by the Church to be a calamity cannot be longed for. Her kingdom does not come from this world, says Saint Augustine; She has been created to develop freely within the broad light of day, and to fulfill the word that promises to Jesus Christ to deliver all generations. All that the Church does in each age is well done. Constantly assisted by the Holy Spirit, She takes from Him that supernatural prudence with which She knows how to suffer, wait and command.

Three centuries of persecution do not exhaust Her perseverance; but She has other virtues besides resignation and silence, and She can do other services to the wicked more than pray for them. She serves them, preventing them from spilling the blood of the just, and keeping them away from the errors that transform them into executioners.

This is how Constantine understood it. As soon as he became a Christian, he knew that he must use for the benefit of the Church the power that his divine founder had given him, and he turned against the corrupters of Her doctrine a power to which this doctrine itself put a healthy check. From a simple political point of view, surrendering the Church to the assaults and revenge of heresy was to return the Empire to paganism in a very short time, and Constantine had fought and triumphed for other things. The Church saw nothing contrary to the order established by God, in the secular support that was offered to Her. She accepted it with gratitude. Since then She has never failed to remind Christian princes of the obligation they have contracted to employ in their favor the material force placed in their hands, so that the fear of temporal punishments, united with the of the pains of the afterlife, would retract man from failing in his duty by the two parts that constitute his being. Thus, and in its own way, the temporal society speaks when it appoints its chiefs, in order to prevent, reward and punish.

Consequently, the establishment of the Inquisition can be traced back to the fourth century. However, the Church neither called for nor used the death penalty against dissidents. Constantine banished them; Constantius and Valerius, the two Arians, decreed death. The Catholics did nothing but maintain this legislation, although not with perfect unanimity, since on the contrary, some serious authorities in the clergy found the Arian law to be too rigorous. The principle is not mixed in such debates, and no true talent disputed the Church the right to claim the help of secular power, nor the princes the right, or, better said, the duty to act in conscience.

In the Middle Ages, after having become more intimate in the union between Church and State, heresy was considered and punished, not only as a crime, and not only as a religious one, but social and political, a character that it indeed had. Consequently, the principles that all the nations of Europe still apply today to certain particular heresies that affect more especially the order and security of the State were applied to all heresies without distinction. It can be declared always and in all cases; but good faith must recognize, even in the peoples that are most prone to liberalism, that certain points of doctrine, often numerous, cannot be denied without incurring the severity of the laws. The difference consists, then, only in the name of the heresy and in the procedures of the inquisitors. As for the penalty, depending on the seriousness of the act, prison, fine, payment of court costs (up to and including confiscation, exile and death) are known. Crime against God is no longer punished, since He is no longer recognized as the head of societies; crime against the law alone is punished. However, even among us and elsewhere, there are still doctrines disapproved by the Church that the State takes charge of and punishes.

 (To be continued)


Translated by Alfz M. Scullin, Círculo Carlista Camino Real de Tejas