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Tuesday, 07 February 2006



And if the reports prove not to be true? Will the VOICE trumpet a correction?
The late Cardinal Bernardin was accused of molesting a seminarian. The young fellow then allowed as how he made up the accusation to gain attention. The accusation was trumpeted, the withdrawal was not.
The Churchj has been around for quite a while and been falsely accused many times. It will undoubtedly survive these accusations. But what of those who only too readily believe them?


The Catholic church is a basically miserable, hypocritical insitituion run by an army of old queens, and has been for centuries. A few facts: during the Middle Ages, the RC Church burned an esimated 30,000 women at the stake in German speaking countries alone for allegedly practicing witchcraft. The Church remained silent while the Holocaust wiped out 8 million Jews. The Church condoned slavery before the 20th Century.

The list of their crimes goes on an on. Let's not forget the Inquisition.

All the while the Church condemns homosexuality as its own supposedly celibate leadership leads active, covert, gay sex lives. It stinks to high heaven (pun intended) and it's past time that it gets exposed and those in charge held responsible for these awful transgressions.

Who else but the Pope would wear pink robes with pink satin slippers, and expect to be taken seriously anyway? It's ridiculous!

Shine the light on this shrouded, secretive bunch of phonies! The harm the RC Church causes, and has caused, is at least equal to any good deeds it does. Basta!


Got any references for these "facts"?
On the burning of women? on the Shoah? on slavery which the Church regularly condemned?
Try reading B. Netanyahu on the Inquisition to get some of your facts straight.


The church did not condemn slavery in the 19th century. It is a fact that 30,000 women were murdered by the church during the Middle Ages in German speaking lands. I know this because I have a Masters in German and studied it. Many innocent people, some prominent, also lost their lives during the Inquistion.


1839: Pope Gregory XVI wrote in Supremo Apostolatus that he admonishes and adjures "in the Lord all believers in Christ, of whatsoever condition, that no one hereafter may dare unjustly to molest Indians, Negroes, or other men of this sort;...or to reduce them to slavery..." The operative word is unjustly. The Pope did not condemn slavery if the slaves had been captured justly. Roman Catholic Bishops in the Southern U.S. determined that this prohibition did not apply to slavery in the U.S. To their credit, various other popes did order or otherwise influence the emancipation of slaves that they considered to be unjustly enslaved.

1866: The Holy Office of the Vatican issued a statement in support of slavery. The document stated that "Slavery not at all contrary to the natural and divine law...The purchaser [of the slave] should carefully examine whether the slave who is put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, and that the vendor should do nothing which might endanger the life, virtue, or Catholic faith of the slave." Some commentators suggest that the statement was triggered by the passage of the 13th Amendment in the U.S. Others claim that the document referred only to a "particular situation in Africa to have slaves under certain conditions," and not necessarily to the situation in the U.S.

Copyright © 1999 to 2001. and 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance

Case Study:
The European Witch-Hunts, c. 1450-1750
and Witch-Hunts Today


For three centuries of early modern European history, diverse societies were consumed by a panic over alleged witches in their midst. Witch-hunts, especially in Central Europe, resulted in the trial, torture, and execution of tens of thousands of victims, about three-quarters of whom were women. Arguably, neither before nor since have adult European women been selectively targeted for such largescale atrocities.

The background

The witch-hunts of early modern Europe took place against a backdrop of rapid social, economic, and religious transformation. As we will see in the modern-day case-studies below, such generalized stress -- including the prevalence of epidemics and natural disasters -- is nearly always central to outbreaks of mass hysteria of this type. Jenny Gibbons' analysis ties the witch-hunts to other "panics" in early modern Europe:

Traditional [tolerant] attitudes towards witchcraft began to change in the 14th century, at the very end of the Middle Ages. ... Early 14th century central Europe was seized by a series of rumor-panics. Some malign conspiracy (Jews and lepers, Moslems, or Jews and witches) was attempting to destroy the Christian kingdoms through magick and poison. After the terrible devastation caused by the Black Death [bubonic plague] (1347-1349), these rumors increased in intensity and focused primarily on witches and "plague-spreaders." Witchcraft cases increased slowly but steadily from the 14th-15th century. The first mass trials appeared in the 15th century. At the beginning of the 16th century, as the first shock-waves from the Reformation hit, the number of witch trials actually dropped. Then, around 1550, the persecution skyrocketed. What we think of as "the Burning Times" -- the crazes, panics, and mass hysteria -- largely occurred in one century, from 1550-1650. In the 17th century, the Great Hunt passed nearly as suddenly as it had arisen. Trials dropped sharply after 1650 and disappeared completely by the end of the 18th century. (Gibbons, "Recent Developments in the Study of the Great European Witch Hunt".)
Gibbons' allusion to the Reformation reminds us that the clash between institutional Catholicism and emergent Protestantism contributed to the collapse of a stable world-view, which eventually led to panic and hyper-suspiciousness on the part of Catholic and Protestant authorities alike. Writes Nachman Ben-Yehuda, "This helps us understand why only the most rapidly developing countries, where the Catholic church was weakest, experienced a virulent witch craze (i.e., Germany, France, Switzerland). Where the Catholic church was strong (Spain, Italy, Portugal) hardly any witch craze occurred ... the Reformation was definitely the first time that the church had to cope with a large-scale threat to its very existence and legitimacy." But Ben-Yehuda adds that "Protestants persecuted witches with almost the same zeal as the Catholics ... Protestants and Catholics alike felt threatened." It is notable that the witch-hunts lost most of their momentum with the end of the Thirty Years War (Peace of Westphalia, 1648), which "gave official recognition and legitimacy to religious pluralism." (Ben-Yehuda, "The European Witch Craze of the 14th to 17th Centuries: A Sociologist's Perspective," American Journal of Sociology, 86: 1 [July 1980], pp. 15, 23.)

The gendercide

The witch-hunts waxed and waned for nearly three centuries, with great variations in time and space. "The rate of witch hunting varied dramatically throughout Europe, ranging from a high of 26,000 deaths in Germany to a low of 4 in Ireland." (Gibbons, Recent Developments.)

Despite the involvement of church authorities, "The vast majority of witches were condemned by secular courts," with local courts especially noted for their persecutory zeal (Gibbons, Recent Developments). The standard procedure in most countries was for accused witches to be brought before investigating tribunals and interrogated. In some parts of Europe (e.g., England), torture was rarely used; but where the witch-hunts were most intensive, it was a standard feature of the interrogations. Obviously, a large majority of accused who "confessed" to witchcraft did so as a result of the brutal tortures to which they were exposed. About half of all convicted witches were given sentences short of execution. The unluckier half were generally killed in public, often en masse, by hanging or burning.

Being female hardly guaranteed that one would be suspected or accused of witchcraft. As Steven Katz notes, "statistical evidence ... makes clear that over 99.9-plus percent of all women who lived during the three centuries of the witch craze were not harmed directly by the police arm of either the state or the church, though both had the power to do so had the elites that controlled them so desired." (Katz, The Holocaust in Historical Context, Vol. I, p. 503.) Nor were all accused witches female. Nonetheless, the witch-hunts can be viewed as a case of "genderized mass murder," according to Katz (p. 503). He adds: "the overall evidence makes plain that the growth -- the panic -- in the witch craze was inseparable from the stigmatization of women. ... Historically, the most salient manifestation of the unreserved belief in female power and female evil is evidenced in the tight, recurrent, by-now nearly instinctive association of women and witchcraft. Though there were male witches, when the witch craze accelerated and became a mass phenomenon after 1500 its main targets, its main victims, were female witches. Indeed, one strongly suspects that the development of witch-hunting into a mass hysteria only became possible when directed primarily at women." (The Holocaust in Historical Context, Vol. I, p. 433 [n. 1], 436.) Katz draws out the depths of this misogyny through a comparison with anti-semitism:

The medieval conception of women shares much with the corresponding medieval conception of Jews. In both cases, a perennial attribution of secret, bountiful, malicious "power," is made. Women are anathematized and cast as witches because of the enduring grotesque fears they generate in respect of their putative abilities to control men and thereby coerce, for their own ends, male-dominated Christian society. Whatever the social and psychological determinants operative in this abiding obsession, there can be no denying the consequential reality of such anxiety in medieval Christendom. Linked to theological traditions of Eve and Lilith, women are perceived as embodiments of inexhaustible negativity. Though not quite quasi-literal incarnations of the Devil as were Jews, women are, rather, their ontological "first cousins" who, like the Jews, emerge from the "left" or sinister side of being. (Katz, The Holocaust in Historical Context, Vol. I, p. 435.)
Manuscript of the Malleus maleficarum, "the most
influential and widely used handbook on witchcraft."
The classic evocation of this deranged misogyny is the Malleus maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), published by Catholic inquisition authorities in 1485-86. "All wickedness," write the authors, "is but little to the wickedness of a woman. ... What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with fair colours. ... Women are by nature instruments of Satan -- they are by nature carnal, a structural defect rooted in the original creation." (Quoted in Katz, The Holocaust in Historical Context, Vol. I, pp. 438-39.) "The importance of the Malleus cannot be overstated," argues Ben-Yehuda:

It was to become the most influential and widely used handbook on witchcraft. ... Its enormous influence was practically guaranteed, owing not only to its authoritative appearance but also to its extremely wide distribution. It was one of the first books to be printed on the recently invented printing press and appeared in no fewer than 20 editions. ... The moral backing had been provided for a horrible, endless march of suffering, torture, and human disgrace inflicted on thousands of women. (Ben-Yehuda, "The European Witch Craze," p. 11.)
An elderly witch is depicted feeding her satanic "familiars" (woodcut, 1579).
Many scholars have argued that it was the women who seemed most independent from patriarchal norms -- especially elderly ones living outside the parameters of the patriarchal family -- who were most vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft. "The limited data we have regarding the age of witches ... shows a solid majority of witches were older than 50, which in the early modern period was considered to be a much more advanced age than today." (Brian P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, p. 129.) "The reason for this strong correlation seems clear," writes Katz: "these women, particularly older women who had never given birth and now were beyond giving birth, comprised the female group most difficult to assimilate, to comprehend, within the regulative late medieval social matrix, organized, as it was, around the family unit." (The Holocaust in Historical Context, Vol. I, pp. 468-69.) As more women than men tended to survive into a dependent old age, they could also be seen disproportionately as a burden by neighbors: "The woman who was labeled a witch wanted things for herself or her household from her neighbors, but she had little to offer in return to those who were not much better off than she. Increasingly resented as an economic burden, she was also perceived by her neighbors to be the locus of a dangerous envy and verbal violence." (Deborah Willis, Malevolent Nurture: Witch-Hunting and Maternal Power in Early Modern England, p. 65.)

One theory, popularized by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English in their 1973 pamphlet Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, proposed that midwives were especially likely to be targeted in the witch-hunts. This assertion has been decisively refuted by subsequent research, which has established the opposite: that "being a licensed midwife actually decreased a woman's chances of being charged" and "midwives were more likely to be found helping witch-hunters" than being victimized by them. (Gibbons, Recent Developments; Diane Purkiss, The Witch in History.)

Condemned female witches are burned at the stake.
Overall, approximately 75 to 80 percent of those accused and convicted of witchcraft in early modern Europe were female. Accordingly, Christina Larner's "identification of the relationship of witch-hunting to woman-hunting" seems well-grounded, as does her conclusion that the witch-hunts were "sex-related" if not "sex-specific." "This does not mean that simple overt sex war is treated as a satisfactory explanation for witch-hunting, or that the ... men who were accused are not to be taken into account." Rather, "it means that the fact that the accused were overwhelmingly female should form a major part of any analysis." (Larner, Enemies of God: The Witch-Hunt in Scotland, p. 3.)


Hoping I do not too much abuse the patience of our host ...

As I was saying [to quote you]: Writes Nachman Ben-Yehuda, "This helps us understand why only the most rapidly developing countries, where the Catholic church was weakest, experienced a virulent witch craze (i.e., Germany, France, Switzerland). Where the Catholic church was strong (Spain, Italy, Portugal) hardly any witch craze occurred ..."

"In these earlier centuries a few individual prosecutions for witchcraft took place, and in some of these torture (permitted by the Roman civil law) apparently took place. Pope Nicholas I, indeed (A.D. 866), prohibited the use of torture, and a similar decree may be found in the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals".

Gregory VII in 1080 wrote to King Harold of Denmark forbidding witches to be put to death upon presumption of their having caused storms or failure of crops or pestilence. Neither were these the only examples of an effort to stem the tide of unjust suspicion to which these poor creatures were exposed.

It was at any rate at Toulouse, the hot-bed of Catharan infection, that we meet in 1275 the earliest example of a witch burned to death after judicial sentence of an inquisitor, who was in this case a certain Hugues de Baniol.

Indeed during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries no prosecutions for witchcraft are known to have been undertaken in Germany by the papal inquisitors. About the year 1400 we find wholesale witch-prosecutions being carried out at Berne in Switzerland by Peter de Gruyères, who was unquestionably a secular judge.

But the "Malleus" professed (in part fraudulently) to have been approved by the University of Cologne, and it was sensational in the stigma it attached to witchcraft as a worse crime than heresy and in its notable animus against the female sex.

Certainly the immediate effects of Innocent VIII's Bull have been greatly exaggerated. Institoris started a witch campaign at Innsbruck in 1485, but here his procedure was severely criticised and resisted by the Bishop of Brixen.

England and Scotland, of course, were by no means exempt from the same epidemic of cruelty, though witches were not usually burned. As to the number of executions in Great Britain it seems impossible to form any safe estimate. One statement declares that 30,000, another that 3000, were hanged in England during the rule of the Parliament...

The icon for the persecution of "witches" is Salem Massachsetts.

and so on.

I also know German, as well as Spanish, French, and Italian. And can claim to have a good knowledge of Latin.
From your tone you wish furiously not to be convinced.


I stand corrected. "Um so mehr bedrückt es aus heutiger Sicht, dass Hexenverfolgungen, -prozesse und -hinrichtungen über einen Zeitraum von mehr als 300 Jahren, zwischen 1430 und 1780, zu einem Tatbestand der europäischen Rechtsprechung werden konnten. Der Urteilsspruch der weltlichen Gerichte (entgegen landläufigen Vorstellungen führten nämlich Juristen und weltliche Richter die überwiegende Mehrheit der Verfahren – und nicht die katholische Kirche oder die Inquisition) bedeutete – nach vorsichtigen Schätzungen seriöser Hexenforscher – für 40.000 bis 60.000 Menschen den Tod. Mindestens 25.000 Hinrichtungen wurden allein im Heiligen Römischen Reich Deutscher Nation vollzogen. Allein dieser ‚deutsche Sonderweg‘ (so der renommierte Hexenforscher Wolfgang Behringer) ist schon ein gewichtiger Grund, sich mit dem Thema auseinander zu setzen."


I presume again on the kindness of our host.

It would be only fair for those readers [if there are any] whose foreign language is French or Spanish or Urdu ...
"Der Urteilsspruch der weltlichen Gerichte (entgegen landläufigen Vorstellungen führten nämlich Juristen und weltliche Richter die überwiegende Mehrheit der Verfahren – und nicht die katholische Kirche oder die Inquisition) bedeutete – nach vorsichtigen Schätzungen seriöser Hexenforscher – für 40.000 bis 60.000 Menschen den Tod" specifically excludes the Catholic Church and the Inquisition from a role in the hangings of the 40,000 to 60,000 people &c. [The number sounds exaggerated, but what do I know].


It's a shame when they have to go this deep to "out" "the children!"

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