The Inquisition was a group of institutions within the government system of the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat public heresy committed by baptized Christians. It started in 12th-century France to combat religious dissent, in particular the Cathars and the Waldensians. Other groups investigated later included the Spiritual Franciscans, the Hussites (followers of Jan Hus) and the Beguines. Beginning in the 1250s, inquisitors were generally chosen from members of the Dominican Order, replacing the earlier practice of using local clergy as judges.[1] The term Medieval Inquisition covers these courts up to mid-15th century.

During the Late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the concept and scope of the Inquisition significantly expanded in response to the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. It expanded to other European countries,[2] resulting in the Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. The Spanish and Portuguese operated inquisitorial courts throughout their empires in Africa, Asia, and the Americas (resulting in the Peruvian Inquisition and Mexican Inquisition).[3] The Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions focused particularly on the issue of Jewish anusim and Muslim converts to Catholicism, partly because these minority groups were more numerous in Spain and Portugal than in many other parts of Europe, and partly because they were often considered suspect due to the assumption that they had secretly reverted to their previous religions.

Except within the Papal States, the institution of the Inquisition was abolished in the early 19th century, after the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and after the Spanish American wars of independence in the Americas. The institution survived as part of the Roman Curia, but in 1908 was given the new name of "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office". In 1965 it became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[4]

The term Inquisition comes from Medieval Latin "inquisitio", which referred to any court process that was based on Roman law, which had gradually come back into usage in the late medieval period.[5] Today, the English term "Inquisition" can apply to any one of several institutions that worked against heretics (or other offenders against canon law) within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church. Although the term Inquisition is usually applied to ecclesiastical courts of the Catholic Church, it has several different usages:[6][need quotation to verify]

"he Inquisition, as a church-court, had no jurisdiction over Moors and Jews as such."[7] Generally, the Inquisition was concerned only with the heretical behaviour of Catholic adherents or converts.[8]

"The overwhelming majority of sentences seem to have consisted of penances like wearing a cross sewn on one's clothes, going on pilgrimage, etc."[9] When a suspect was convicted of unrepentant heresy, the inquisitorial tribunal was required by law to hand the person over to the secular authorities for final sentencing, at which point a magistrate would determine the penalty, which was usually burning at the stake although the penalty varied based on local law.[10][11] The laws were inclusive of proscriptions against certain religious crimes (heresy, etc.), and the punishments included death by burning, although usually the penalty was banishment or imprisonment for life, which was generally commuted after a few years. Thus the inquisitors generally knew what would be the fate of anyone so remanded, and cannot be considered to have divorced the means of determining guilt from its effects.[12]

The 1578 edition of the Directorium Inquisitorum (a standard Inquisitorial manual) spelled out the purpose of inquisitorial penalties: ... quoniam punitio non refertur primo & per se in correctionem & bonum eius qui punitur, sed in bonum publicum ut alij terreantur, & a malis committendis avocentur (translation: "... for punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit").[13]

This page was last edited on 4 July 2018, at 15:13 (UTC).
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