*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 21st of July. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Adam Francisco, recording from Wheaton, in for Dan van Voorhis, who is playing hooky for another week or so.

Today on Christian History Almanac, we cover not the Spanish Inquisition but the Roman Inquisition. The Roman Inquisition, originally known by a more ominous sounding name, the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, was instituted by Pope Paul III on July 21, 1542, with the issuing of the encyclical Licet ab initio.

It established an organization within the papacy made up of cardinals (the pope’s chief officials) and gave it the charge of prosecuting and persecuting heresy, suppressing crimes against the faith, prohibiting dangerous books (which led to the famous Index of Prohibited Books], and appointing inquisitors for the whole church. Their authority was rather extensive. The pope authorized them to establish courts of inquisition for the heresy of any kind (from the Lutheran one to witchcraft to erroneous cosmology). They were also given the authority to sentence guilty parties to any number of penalties, including death, anywhere, which would be carried out and supervised by secular officials. Of course, this meant the Roman inquisition only effectively operated in areas where Catholicism held sway, but this did not keep it from pronouncing judgments from afar. For example, while investigating Galileo for the first time, the inquisition trained its sights more on the long-dead Nicholas Copernicus and his work On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres and concluded that a view of our solar system with the sun at the center was “foolish and absurd”, “formally heretical”, and “erroneous in faith”, which resulted in Copernicus’s work being put on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1616, where it would remain until the 1820s.

Things did not go so well for another heliocentrist named Giordano Bruno. He was brought to trial in 1593 and, most likely more for his theological heresies than his cosmological views was burned at the stake at the close of the 16th century. To be sure, he was a heretic. He denied fundamental Christian doctrines and embraced a mixture of esoteric and pagan ones. And these were capital crimes in earlier centuries. Times have changed. The inquisition, however, would persist into the modern era.

There is a fairly famous case of its activity as late as the mid-19th century when one of its courts in Bologna ruled that a six-year-old Jewish boy who had been secretly baptized by a nurse when she thought he might die was taken by agents of the inquisition, raised by Pope Pius IX, despite the efforts of his family to get him back and eventually went on to become a priest. And interestingly, the Roman Inquisition is, in a way, still around, only under a different name. In 1908 Pope Pius X renamed it the Congregation of the Holy Office. Deciding the “defense of the faith is now better served by promoting doctrine, in such a way that…those who err are gently called back to the truth”, the old ways were finally abandoned. A new kinder and gentler approach was taken, which was further reinforced in 1965 when the Congregation’s name was changed yet again to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where it still reviews and preserves church doctrine but also deliberates over the thornier issues of raised by an increasingly secular and decisively non-Christian culture.

And now a word from scripture.

Psalm 85:1-13

1Lord, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you covered all their sin. Selah
3 You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.

4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 21st of July brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by Christoper Gillespie and written by Adam Francisco.

You can catch us here every day. And remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. In the end, everything is going to be ok.