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Anonymous asked in Society & CultureReligion & Spirituality · 1 decade ago

During the middle ages, how many were killed because they questioned the loving and kind Catholic Church?

19 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    milions some say up to 150,000,000 for what heresy=reading the bible

    any their their the beast of revelation go to this link

  • John S
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    First off before we can get to a number..there is an issue that needs to be clarified. When calculating a number.. do we differentiate between what was done by governments which happen to be Catholic AND Ecclesiastical bodies, which are actual institutions of the Church?

    IF we don't differentiate the two..then we risk lumping together the actions of any government who happens to be religious with religion. THEN nearly ALL wars become religious ones and nearly ALL religions become embroiled in scandal and oppression.

    So it seems only fair to try to differentiate the 2.

    Unfortunately, in those days, most governments were religious. A charge of heresy and excommunication by the Catholic church, could ALSO be followed up by a charge of an attack against the CROWN or the COUNTRY, since most rulers were religious. This is the part that everyone forgets. The Catholic church may have been right to excommunicate a person who believed ideologies outside of what the church tought, but people don't realize that during that time..that was ALSO a crime against the kind, punishable by death.

    I agree with you that the Church did not do enough to stop the persecussions or to denounce the connection of church and state..but we need to be clear that the church did not go around beheading people..that was the STATE which did that. NOW a days we have the idea of the separation of church and state..but back then.. that wasn't the case.

    I'm not a I can't say for sure the Church didn't have ANYTHING to do with the deaths, but I do think we need to be careful to differentiate it and realize the church didn't specifically teach conversion thru force.

    I am not trying to defend the church from ALL acusations of wrong doing..merely trying to temper some of the wild estimates of 150 million.

    I think it also bears mentioning that to truly understand this phenomenon we have to ALSO realize that society felt differently about the entire CONCEPT of religious truth. Since the enlightenment, societies have begun to think of religious truths as more inidividual and not absolute. BUT in the middle ages.. religious truths were thought of by everyone as more ABSOLUTE. More a matter of fact.. a matter which there was an specific right and wrong answer to. Everyone in society generally held this view. The concept of religion being entirely a "personal" belief had not taken root yet. The idea in christianity was that God deposited a seed of faith and truth. It would be natural for the church to protect this deposited truth vehemently from corruption because it represented something very REAL and objective.

    These are the cultural differences of the time we must realize in looking back and judging the inquisition. People very much thought of religion as being reality and truth, not personal decision,...therefore they wanted to take certain means to protect that truth and prosecute those who would lie and give false testimony to others.

    Luckily in society today, we have a more lenient cultural view of religion. But that clearly was not the case during the inquisition which is in part what led to such SEVERE treatment of heretics by state governments.

    I do not believe for a moment that the State Governments and/or the Catholic church put to death 150 million people as some people are alleging. I suspect, without furnishing hard research, that some groups might be inflating those numbers to further attack the church.

    The fact that the church is still answering for mistakes made over 500 years ago atests to how vehemently some groups like to attack the Catholic religion. We have forgiven Germany for the holocaust just 50 years ago..yet still beat down the Catholic church over 500 years later.

    So AGAIN.. I am not saying she had NOTHING to do with it..but calling into question the way the numbers are gathered and merely pointing out it is at least as much a cultural issue as a religious one..if not more so.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I am afraid that you are either not up to date with you Medieval history or simply misinformed. Beginning in the 1980’s secular scholarship has drastically changed its tone concerning the Middle Ages.

    It is important to note that since the late 15th century the Middle Ages has gotten an undeserved negative bias. I could go deep into the many ways this is so, but I will leave it with this example. Consider the term “Middle Ages.” What does that mean? Well it’s between the Classical Roman era and the Riennasance. This suggests that it’s just a filler age, during which nothing important happened. The very term “Medieval” conjures up all sorts of negative ideas. Authoritative institutions, torture, brutality…etc.

    Modern scholarship is finally, after 500 years, looking at the Middle Ages while actively considering its POSITIVE attributes. A prime example of this is that the birth of our modern democracy comes from the ancient Greeks, however, our democracies are quite different that Athenian Democracy. In fact, our democracy is far more similar to the Parliament system of England and the Estates General of France, both of which are MEDIEVAL institutions. We commonly believe that the medieval peasant was a downtrodden laborer, which had NO freedom. In actuality, the average medieval peasant worked something like 1,500 hours a year, while the modern American worker averages something like 2,000 hours a year. We have 8, state recognized holidays a year, they had over 80. They worked for a week per month on their lord’s land to pay for their rent and taxes, the average American works 2.5 weeks per month just to make enough to pay their rent and taxes.

    I believe no aspect of the medieval world is more misunderstood than the Medieval Catholic Church. In fact, until the 18th century, there really wasn’t any secular education available to ANYONE, so before the Protestant Reformation, the only source of education was the Catholic Church. If any child was born with a disability, or was unwanted for another reason, the only people who would care for the child was the Catholic Church until the 16th century. The only public entertainment was on religious holidays, and patroned by the Catholic Church.

    I really could go on, but I’m sure you see my point. I wont pretend that the Church was an always kind and gentle institution. But modern scholarship suggests that it did far more in building and preserving western society than in destroying it.

    Dont trust high school history and popular culture on this matter, it simply isn't accurate.

  • 1 decade ago

    Interesting question and hard to answer. Too many is certainly valid but the exact numbers will probably be shrouded in the mists of time. Considering that "thou shalt not kill" was supposed to be the prime commandment, it is ironic how often this is ignored - or worse, conditionally agreed with. Its interesting that most modern interpretations have changed this to be "thou shalt not commit murder" to justify "legal killing." I am sure Jesus would be turning in his grave, if he was still in one...

    The inquisition kept detailed records, so we have some ideas of how many "normal" people were tortured (not always to death) in Spain for doubting the word of the Catholic Church. I struggle to find a reference in the New Testament that justifies this, but maybe one of the Catholic readers can supply the reason. If we include the Crusades themselves the numbers get a lot higher, but then Pope Urban decreed that killing an infidel was not murder and was holy in the eyes of God. (Sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it)

    As you probably expected, a few people have chosen to answer this question with a direct attack on Atheism. Often this is flawed - people are not killed in the name of "atheism" and the Atheist God does not grant forgiveness to those who kill in his name. Personality cults and tyranny is not the same as atheism. If anything, a personality cult goes against the basic ideas. Also, Hitler was really not an atheist - but even if he was the people who implemented his evil work were (on the whole) Catholics. Saying Hitler was an Atheist does not justify the actions of the SS. In Soviet Russia, an awful lot of Stalin's executioners were Orthodox Christians on the quiet.

    EDIT: The Spanish inquisition may not have been directed by the pope but it was done by devout Catholics in the name of orthodox Catholicism.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Historically speaking some number less than 200,000. The point is every killing done by the RC or any other church is a killing in direct defiance of Jesus Christ.

    On the other hand, in the 20th century, murderous atheistic tyrants (Hitler, Stalin, Mao & Pol Pot for instance) killing over 100 million. And the truth is atheism with its relativistic ethics cannot absolutely condemn these murders and cannot even absolutely condemn genocide.

  • Misty
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Crusades or Inquisition?

    It's easy in hindsight to judge a time and society we no longer experience or understand.

    The Crusades were a series of defensive battles against Muslim attacks. They were not organized and run by the Church, but tended to be upstart groups of Catholics who took things into their own hands. Many non-believers joined in to reap the benefits of pillaging. There was no telephone, email, text messaging, etc. to get word out and tell people to stop. It took time for the Pope to know what was going on, and time for word to get back to those who had run amok.

    The Inquisitions were also driven, in part, by the society and times in which they happened. Civil law and Church law were linked. If you spoke heresy you were condemned by civil law to die...not by the Church. In fact, in many cases the Church worked to get people to recant their heretical statements to save them from death. Death sentences were carried out by the civil authorities.

    Its true, that at that time, the Church thought that a good way to deal with heretics was to torture them, and force them to recant. The Church has since apologized for this. But again, we see this error in hindsight. The medieval times were violent times for the entire society. Most punishments for breaking the law involved sentences we consider barbaric today. People were hanged in public, drawn and quartered etc. This was the society.

    The Spanish Inquistition was state ministry, not papal organization. Blaming Popes for deeds of Spanish Inquistition is incorrect. However kings of Spain used Dominicans (catholic order) as judges etc. because clergy (especially mentioned monks) were genarally far more educated than ordinal people.

    The Church, even though the true Church of Christ, is not made of perfect people. She is protected from ever teaching heresy, but this protection does not give those in charge a crystal ball, or the power to know more than the current times in which they live.

    As far as the actual numbers of those killed, no one has a real count. But we do know that over the years the number has increased in direct proportion to the number of anti-Catholics. Those who claim in the "millions" are way off base. Not even close, more likely in the thousands. But just to give you an idea:

    The Spanish Inquisition, assuredly the most vigorous and corrupt of the various inquisitorial bodies that existed in Europe, held 49,000 trials between 1560-1700 and executed between 3 and 5,000 people.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago


    but the killing started much earlier than that. This will give the full story and what is behind those dark doctrines.

    And keep in mind, there are many who still admire the Sermon on the Mount and are really ashamed of those things from the past.

  • 1 decade ago

    "The number of people martyred by the Roman Catholic Church - estimates range from 50 to 120 million."

    Source(s): Evangelical Dilemma, Dr.Colin Standish, p161.
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago


    And I see someone brought up Russian Orthodox Josef Stalin once again. Typical, really. Those people were killed in the name of Communism not atheism.

  • 1 decade ago

    Actually, heretics were executed by the" civil arm" or state and not the Church or clergy since heresy was a civil as well as religious 'crime".

    So the answer is no body.

    Thousands were killed for religious excuses in the Middle Ages and renaissance

    Another reason not to have the death penalty which the Catholic Church now opposes

    The Catholic Church since Vatican II has been in the forefront of defending religious liberty of Non Catholics

    Of course, Communists and secularist nationalists and other such 'godless" ideologues have killed directly hundreds of millions

  • 1 decade ago

    Estimates are going to be vague, because all sorts of ideologies were the cause of murders in the Middle Ages... just like today. And they weren't all solely Christian, just like today.

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