The Inquisition

by Alfredo de Mello


TGF Foreword:

Our intolerance of another's ways or beliefs, is millennia old. Every single religion has displayed religious intolerance against another. The Jews against the non-Jews, The Hindus against the Buddhists, Buddhists against Hindus & Christians, the Muslims against the Christians, Hindus & Jews, the Christians against the Jews, Muslims and Hindus,  and the Hindus against the Muslims & Christians.

When there was no "outsider" to fight against, we fought and discriminated within the faith. The Caste System is but one example; others being the Catholic vs Protestant battles and the Shia vs Sunni struggles.

Tertullian (Ad. Scapulam, c. ii) wrote ( according to the Catholic Encyclopedia) : 

LATIN [Humani iuris et naturalis potestatis, unicuique quod putaverit colere, nec alii obest aut prodest alterius religio. Sed nec religionis est religionem colere, quae sponte suscipi debeat, non vi.]

ENGLISH [ natural law authorized man to follow only the voice of individual conscience in the practice of religion, since the acceptance of religion was a matter of free will, not of compulsion]

St. Cyprian of Carthage, surrounded as he was by countless schismatics and undutiful Christians, also put aside the material sanction of Old Testament ( Jewish Law ), which punished rebellion against priesthood and the Judges, with death.

Lactantius was yet smarting under the scourge of bloody persecutions, when he wrote this Divine Institutes in A.D. 308. Naturally, therefore, he stood for the most absolute freedom of religion. He writes: 

[Religion being a matter of the will, it cannot be forced on anyone; in this matter it is better to employ words than blows.

Of what use is cruelty? What has the rack to do with piety? 

Surely there is no connection between truth and violence, between justice and cruelty . . . . It is true that nothing is so important as religion, and one must defend it at any cost [summâ vi] . . . 

It is true that it must be protected, 
but by dying for it, not by killing others; 
by long-suffering, not by violence; 
by faith, not by crime. 

If you attempt to defend religion with bloodshed and torture, what you do is not defense, but desecration and insult. 

For nothing is so intrinsically a matter of free will as religion]

The Christian teachers of the first three centuries insisted, as was natural for them, on complete religious liberty; furthermore, they not only urged the principle that religion could not be forced on others—a principle always adhered to by the Church in her dealings with the unbaptized—but, when comparing the Mosaic Law and the Christian religion, they taught that the latter was content with a, spiritual punishment of heretics (i.e. with excommunication), while Judaism necessarily proceeded against its dissidents with torture and death. 

A thousand years later came the Horrible Inquisition !

Whatever the antecedents to the institution of the Inquisition

Whatever the prevailing legal and common law customs of the time; customs which burnt dissidents at the stake

Whatever the precedents in Jewish Law which tortured,  burnt or stoned dissidents

Whatever the level of butchery and violence in India between Hindus & Muslims

Whatever the Hindu Brahmin use of Rajputs to destroy the Buddhists

Whatever the perpetual degradation imposed by the racist Hindu Caste system

Whatever the cases of Hindus requiring widows to jump into the burning pyres of their recently deceased husband and be cremated with him (SATI)

Whatever the hurt caused by the murder of Blessed Thérèse of St. Augustine and fifteen of her Carmelite nun colleagues of Compiègne, guillotined on July 17, 1794 

However brutal the killing in South India of St. Joao de Britto who was arrested, tortured, and commanded to leave India in 1693, only to be behanded,  befooted and eventually beheaded for refusing to do so.

Whatever the prevailing sentiment after the beheading of the 5 Jesuit priests in Cuncolim(1583) also known as the Cuncolim martyrs

The Catholic Church had NO justification whatsoever, for supporting, effecting or even condoning and not vociferously opposing the Burning at the Stake of those who were sentenced to die by the Inquisitory Courts.

The Inquisition (  as in Inquiry alone ) can be justified; Not the torture and definitely NOT, the death sentence.

A Church which supports the Right to Life cannot and must not support the Death Penalty. On the contrary, it must oppose the Death Penalty.

TGF also believes that the Inquisition ( like ALL Inquisitions, ancient & modern day) was an instrument used in the abuse of power. Those who stand in judgment (as we all saw in the modern day Inquisition of US President Bill Clinton) are not necessarily in possession of  any higher moral values than the ones they have pompously and Oh So Piously congregated to condemn. 

The Inquisition in Goa was a political tool which was used by the politically powerful  to get rid of people who the powerful corrupt did not like or want around.  Religion was used as a cover for Ignorance, Intolerance and in the interest of Political and Financial Expediency. 

The Church, at the very least, stood by and watched and that too, for several centuries.

For the above reasons,
the Catholic Church must apologize to ALL those who suffered at the stake and make reparations for that suffering.

It is quite possible that the Rt. Wing Hindu elements will use the Catholic Church's apology ( or even the  Alfredo de Mello article which follows) to beat up on the Church and further persecute good and honest  Catholics in India.

It is possible that Jews will point out that the Inquisition, including in Goa, was mainly directed towards them. They might conveniently fail to realize that the Inquisition would find procedural precedent in their own Judaic (Mosaic) traditions and in their own treatment of non Jews.

It matters little.

The Catholic Church has recently made the right moves towards reconciliation with Jews and with Muslims.  Now, it is time to reconcile with Goa and Goans. The Catholic Church must do what is right,  and early.


June 21, 2001


on 23 January 1999, Graham Stuart Staines,  a Baptist Missionary who operated a charitable hospice to care for victims of leprosy in North East India, was burnt alive in a jeep along with his sons, Philip and Timothy.  They were  asleep in their off-the-road vehicle outside the church when a frenzied mob of  Christian-haters set their vehicle  on fire.

"I am terribly upset but not angry.  My husband loved Jesus Christ, who has taught us to forgive our enemies." -Gladys Staines, widow of murdered missionary.


Rt. Wing Hindu elements and even some 'brain washed' Goan Catholics repeatedly spout accusations at St. Francis Xavier. They blame SFX  for the horrors of the Inquisition in Goa. They are advised to read this article on St. Francis Xavier.  SFX surely asked for the Inquisition as in INQUIRY to be instituted. He died several years before it was instituted.

When SFX came to Goa, he was distraught at the absolutely vulgar lifestyle of the Portuguese and other elite in Old Goa. To him, it was a totally unChristian way of life in a land which was supposed to be under a Christian administration. It must be noted that SFX was very unpopular with the corrupt Portuguese civil service and other members of  16th Century Old Goa. 

No wonder they organized trips to Cochin, Malacca and far away places for SFX. It is on during one of these trips across turbulent seas that SFX met his untimely death.

"So much work....all of it not done" or so SFX ( the co-founder of the Jesuits )  thought.

Today, the Jesuit presence in the world (including and especially India) is stupendous. 


Alfredo recently wrote the following re the Inquisition as far as Goa is concerned.

[I fully agree that St. Francis Xavier did not wish, nor envisage, the type of Inquisition that took place in Goa, eight years after his death.

From my chapter on the Inquisition in Goa, you will realize that what went on in Goa - as written by Dr. Dellon, - that 

1) great injustice was meted out to innocents, almost certainly all of them.

2) the Inquisitors enriched themselves with the patrimony, and wealth of the accused

3) this caused the exodus of many Goans, for fear of being unjustly accused and condemned by such a fiendish organization.

St. Francis Xavier,  by the sheer example of his own life, living in abject poverty, attending lepers, and the poor, would have never approved of what went on for 252 years, under the all-powerful Inquisition.

Mind you, even the King of Portugal, and the Viceroys in Goa, lived in fear of the Inquisition !!

Also, I fully agree with the rest of comments re: what went on in India, in those times, and denounce the present day persecution of Christians in India, which seems to be the policy of the ultra-orthodox Hindus.

Quite different from the TOLERANCE of the tenets of Hinduism, which embraces so many gods.]


Inquisition in Goa by Alfredo de Mello

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