Hitler's Pope and 9 Other Anti-Catholic Myths Disproven By History

Roman Catholics have gotten a bad reputation: they're responsible for the Dark Ages, the Crusades, and the Inquisition. They're anti-science, anti-Semites, and anti-freedom. Each of these accusations is an oversimplification that perverts history.

According to a new, groundbreaking book by sociologist and historian Rodney Stark, the truth is far more friendly to the Catholic Church, and those who say otherwise are overlooking important developments in the study of history. In Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History, Stark rebuts 10 historical myths that reflect badly on the Catholic church.

Little do many of us know, Catholics actually pioneered capitalism, laid the foundations for science, abolished slavery, and denounced witch hunts. That doesn't sound so dark to me.

Stark is not a Catholic, and neither am I, but these truths are very important for everyone to know. Here is PJ Media's list of the ten anti-Catholic myths Stark debunks.

10. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition...actually denounced witch hunts.

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The Spanish Inquisition is synonymous with bigotry, torture, and book burning. Historians have estimated that between 10,000 and 300,000 were burned at the stake, and one claimed that it condemned 3 million.

These estimates are based on malicious lies. The myth began with "Montanus," the pen name of a renegade Spanish monk who became a Lutheran and fled to the Netherlands. Protestants longed to hear of the horrors of Catholic prisons and tribunals, and Montanus gave them an "inside view."

Luckily, the actual Inquisition kept meticulous records for hundreds of years. The beginning years were poorly documented, and historians agree those were the bloodiest -- about 1,500 people were executed (by the Spanish authorities -- the Inquisition never executed anyone). During the fully recorded period (1480 to 1700), there are 44,674 cases, and only 826 people were executed. This is a travesty, but nothing close to the horrific myths we know and love. This is about ten deaths per year, while English courts averaged 750 hangings a year between 1530 and 1630.

Also compared to other courts in Europe at the time, the Inquisition was more restrained when it came to torture. "Church law limited torture to one session lasting no more than fifteen minutes, and there could be no danger to life or limb," Stark notes. While this still allows a wide range of pain and suffering, torture was only used in about 2 percent of all recorded cases.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Inquisition actually clamped down on witch hunting. In the late Middle Ages and especially in the "Enlightenment," fear of witches led the masses to seize and kill many across Europe. Ironically, the Catholic Church allowed magic (medical science was only in its infancy, and magic seemed to work just as well), and most of those suspected of being witches were trying to use magic sanctioned by the Church.

The Inquisition actually listened to these people, and unlike other courts at the time, they made a distinction between "the implicit and explicit invocation of demons." In Barcelona in 1549, a local branch of the Inquisition ordered 7 suspected witches be burned, but the overarching authority, theĀ Suprema, sent an investigator who ended up pardoning the women and executing those who conducted the witch hunting!

The Inquisition didn't support witch hunting, instead "it was their influence, and especially their discrediting of evidence gained by torture, that brought witch-burning to an end in Catholic areas--an effect that soon seeped into the Protestant areas as well."

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