In his letter on the jubilee of the Year 2000, the Holy Father himself denounces the Inquistion:
Another painful chapter of history to which the sons and daughters of the Church must return with a spirit of repentance is that of the acquiescence given, especially in certain centuries, to intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of truth. (§35)2
However, the saints who lived in the era of the Inquisition never criticized it, except to complain that it did not repress heresy severely enough. The Holy Office scrutinized the spiritual writings of St. Teresa of Avila to see if this might be a case of a false mystic, because there were at that time many false mystics among the Alumbrados of Spain.3Far from seeing this as a system of intolerance, the saint relied in all confidence upon the judgment of the tribunal, which, in fact, found nothing heretical in her writings.
Now the saints have never been afraid to denounce the abuses of the clergy: indeed that is one of their principal functions. How does one account for the fact that they had nothing to say against the Inquisition? How does one account for the fact that the Church has canonized no less than four Grand Inquisitors: Peter the Martyr (d. 1252), John Capistran (d. 1456), Peter Arbues (d. 1485) and Pius V (d. 1572)? St. Dominic (d. 1221) had indeed been an associate of the tribunal of the legatine Inquisition.
In fact, criticism of the Inquisition by Catholic authors did not begin to appear until the 19th century, and then only among the liberal Catholics, since the ultramontanes [clerics believing most strongly in and supporting most vigorously papal policy in ecclesiastical and political matters —Ed.] were vigorously defending the tribunal.4 Prior to the French Revolution, anti-inquisitorial discourse was the province of the Protestants.
The historian Jean Dumont, who at the present time is the best apologist of the Inquisition,5 points out that the engravings of the 16th century, which illustrate scenes of the auto-da-fé [“act of faith,” usually public, at which those tried by the Inquisition had their sentences pronounced —Ed.] habitually depict gabled buildings. This type of architecture was found at that time in the “Low-Countries” and in the valley of the Rhine, but not in Spain. This detail reveals the Protestant origin of the engravings. In effect, the black legend of the Inquisition is the product of Protestant propaganda, which was passed down to the 18th century by the philosophy of the “enlightenment,” to the 19th century by Masonic anticlericalism, and to the 20th by “Christian-democracy.”
Read more about Tomas de Torquemada, the one man most responsible for starting the Inquisition on it’s violent path of terror:
- God’s Jury: the Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World (newstatesman.com)
- [Review] God’s Jury: The Inquisition, IT & Privacy (readwriteweb.com)