Monday, April 15, 2013

3 Purveyors of Persecution

The three churches in the previous post -- Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican -- each defends itself as the true church by citing historical continuity back to the apostles. Even if that were true, there is a simple matter that must rend them from the lineage of the church built by the carpenter's son of "not many wise, not many mighty, and not many noble," but rather the weak, base and despised. These three "universal" churches not only fought one another, but also universally persecuted and murdered any simple Christians whose faith did not align with their pronouncements.

The Inquisition, or Inquiry on Heretical Perversity, refers to any of the judicial institutions from the 1100s to the 1800s within the Roman Catholic Church which hounded "heretics".  Punishment ranged from imprisonment, banishment, and torture to death (usually a quite horrific one). Some modern historians have tried to revise this view of the Inquisition. But it's stain cannot be erased. The Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215 declared what was already practiced, stating that secular authorities "shall be admonished and induced and if necessary compelled" to exterminate all heretics that the (Roman Catholic) Church pointed out to them in their jurisdiction. The oft revered "Saint" Thomas Aquinas believed that obstinate heretics should "not only to be separated from the Church, but also to be eliminated from the world by death." Persecution by the Catholic Church is no mere spectre of the dark ages. For example, the state of Croatia (named after the Roman Catholic "Croats") was formed in 1941. The Serbs in Croatia, who were Eastern Orthodox, were given three options -- convert to Roman Catholicism , be exiled, or be executed. This was no empty threat, but was at least carried out on women and children in Prebilovici. In 1965 the Roman Catholic Church issued "Dignitatis Humanae" (part of the Vatican II Council) which "declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom," repudiating centuries of Roman Catholic practice otherwise.

Orthodox Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081--1118) persecuted and punished Paulician and  Bogomil "heretics". One of his last acts in life was to burn at the stake Basil, a Bogomil leader condemned as a heretic by Patriarch Nicholas III. The Coptic Christians in Egypt suffered under the Byzantine Empire. The Melkite Patriarchs, whose leadership encompassed both spiritual and civil matters, massacred those they considered heretics. Another example of Orthodox persecution can be seen during Patriarch Nikon’s reforms in the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century. The dissenters were persecuted, either finding it necessary to flee the country, or else submit to torture and burning at the stake. Even in recent years there are reports of the Russian Orthodox Church aligning itself with Vladimir Putin  in his government-sponsored persecution of Catholics.

Anglicans were later getting in the game than the older Catholic and Orthodox churches, but they plied the trade quite well. Who does not know of the violent war of Anglican against Catholic in England? And laws such as the Uniformity Act of 1662 and the Blasphemy Act of 1650 enforced the dominance of the Church of England and chastised religious dissenters. The sad case of Edward Wightman, the last person in England burned at the stake for heresy (1612), stands as a testament to their zeal against religious "heresy".

Yes, the Reformers wielded the sword to spread their religion, and time would fail me to speak of the wild excesses of the Radicals at Munster. But these are the three that are blowing the long horn for their catholicity, continuity, consensus, existence, and succession. The continuity of these so-called churches is the continuity of the growth of an acorn into a giraffe -- a kingdom not of this world seduced by the kingdoms of this world. What simple reader cannot detest such desultory connection and see & know that a church making converts by the sword has fully departed from the "my church" of Jesus Christ of the New Testament both in theology and practice? Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.

No comments: