Paul rightly warned of those who only pretend to be apostles of Christ. Some of them, wrapped in religious robes, have been diabolical beyond belief. Take the Inquisitors for example. The word inquisition, akin to inquire and inquest, refers to the judicial machinery authorized by the medieval church to uproot heresy. In earlier centuries the church had excommunicated heretics, but most church leaders had opposed physical punishment. But as bureaucracy grew and heresy flourished, attitudes changed.
During the 1100s and early 1200s, stronger measures evolved; and on April 20, 1233 Pope Gregory IX issued two edicts, delegating the prosecution of heresy to the Dominican order. The Inquisitors roamed the countryside, admonishing heretics to confess. Those who didn’t were brought to trial, the Inquisition serving as a special court with broad and frightening powers.
In 1252 Pope Innocent IV allowed the use of torture, and the Inquisition soon became the most “terrible engine of oppression that the mind of man or devil ever conceived.” Suspects were flogged, burned, slashed, frozen, stretched, and suspended by their limbs. Their feet were slowly roasted over fiery coals. Devilish inventions filled the dungeons and dens of the church: thumbscrews for crushing thumbs, boots for slowly crushing feet, and the dreaded Jungfer, or “iron maid.” This device enfolded the victim with metal arms, crushed him in a spiked hug, then opened and let him fall, bleeding from countless stab wounds, bones all broken, to die slowly in an underground hole of revolving knives and spears.
Children and the elderly could be “lightly” tortured, and only pregnant women were exempt—until after delivery. The Inquisition operated in Germany, thrived in France and Italy, and reached its zenith in Spain. It wrought its destruction against Jews, Waldensians, Blacks, and Protestants. It made a show of being religious, but in its grim dungeons was the very enemy of the One in whose robes it was wrapped.
They are no more than false apostles and dishonest workers. They only pretend to be apostles of Christ. And it is no wonder. Even Satan tries to make himself look like an angel of light. So why does it seem strange for Satan’s servants to pretend to do what is right? Someday they will get exactly what they deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Apr. 20.