The Inquisition and the Crusades

Ever since President Obama gave his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, there has been such an incredible uproar. Most of it has been foolish, historically inaccurate and incredibly irresponsible. Rev. Fr. Raymond de Souza, a Catholic priest and a columnist for the National Post criticized Mr. Obama for dipping his toes into the deep waters of history. With such a “telling off”  the time has now come to put history in its proper perspective

More than a thousand years ago, Visigoths, Celts, Romans, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in the Iberian Peninsular, producing a unique and pluralistic society. Yet in a few centuries, Spain would transform itself from a multicultural nation to the least intolerant country in Europe. Visigoths accused the minority Jews of plotting to take over the Kingdom and murder the Christians. They had made Christianity the ideological center of the political state, making conformity to that religion an unquestionable condition for residing there. They also declared that only Catholics can live in Spain. Centuries later, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle agreed, ushering in the Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews. The Moors had been defeated in the “Holy Reconquest” and Spain descended from religious pluralism to religious tyranny.

Catholic clergy had been persistently calling for the conversion and destruction of Judaism. They believed the Second Coming of Christ will take place only when the Jews accepted Christianity. Religion was a matter of faith, not race and since doctrine held that baptism altered the soul, the “stain” of Judaism was instantly blotted out and from that moment on, the baptized Jew was instantly a member of Christianity in an officially declared Christian land.  In the 20th. century, the Nazis taking the cue from their spirited forebearers in Spain, decided that only Aryans could live in Germany and committed the most unspeakable atrocities against mankind.

For more than 200 years, the history of the Crusades, sanctioned by the Latin Roman Catholic Church, struggled for the control of the Holy Land. Whoever joined the ranks of the Crusades gained spiritual immunity. Pope Urban II promised forgiveness of all sins to whosoever took up the cross and joined the Holy War. The Crusaders pillaged countries they traveled through in typical medieval fashion and nobles retained much of the territories gained, rather than returning it, was they had sworn to do.

The Crusades prompted the murder of thousands of Jews who were perceived to be just an enemy as the Muslims, for all Jews were held responsible for the crucifixion of Christ. Many Crusaders wondered why they should travel thousands of miles to fight non-believers when the infidels were already there. The Crusaders rationalized the killing of Jews to be an extension of their Catholic faith.

The Crusades, whether in the Middles East or in Europe, were papal-led. The Albigensian Crusade was launched in France that eliminated the heretical Cathars, with Pope Innocent III offering the lands of the Cathars and heretics to any French nobleman willing to take up arms.

Protestants in later years saw the Crusades as a manifestation of the evils of the Papacy, while Catholics viewed the movement as a force of God.

In later years, historians tended to view both the Crusades and the Middles Ages as efforts of barbarian cultures driven by fanaticism. They expressed moral outrage at the conduct of the Crusades; that high ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed and that the Holy War was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God.

About the Author
Originally from Mumbai, India. Studied, trained and worked in Mumbai, Munich, Germany and Toronto, Canada. For many years, Leslie owned and operated a printing company where he printed everything, except money! Currently retired. Married with four children (four too many.)
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