How does the Roman Catholic Church
justify its role in mass murders?
In 1231, Pope Gregory IX published a decree which called for life imprisonment with salutary penance for the heretic who had confessed and repented, and capital punishment for those who persisted.
Gregory IX was a principal figure in the cementing and institutionalizing of the Latin Church teaching that discriminated against Jews and condemned them to an inferior status in Christendom. The second-class status of Jews was thereby established would last until well into the 19th century. (Perhaps the most stupid action of this “infallible” pope was the statement in his papal letter “Vox in Rama” of 1232, that cats were an instrument of the devil and a symbol of heresy. This led to a great reduction in the number of cats, which, a hundred years later, may have contributed to the quick spread of the Black Death plague, which killed 1/3 to 1/2 of the population of Europe).
From the writings of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
I answer that, With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.
On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but “after the first and second admonition,” as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death.
As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power.
“To be excommunicated is not to be uprooted.” A man is excommunicated, as the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 5:5) that his “spirit may be saved in the day of Our Lord.” Yet if heretics be altogether uprooted by death, this is not contrary to Our Lord’s command...
For this reason the Church not only admits to Penance those who return from heresy for the first time, but also safeguards their lives, and sometimes by dispensation, restores them to the ecclesiastical dignities which they may have had before, should their conversion appear to be sincere: we read of this as having frequently been done for the good of peace. But when they fall again, after having been received, this seems to prove them to be inconstant in faith, wherefore when they return again, they are admitted to Penance, but are not delivered from the pain of death.
In God’s tribunal, those who return are always received, because God is a searcher of hearts, and knows those who return in sincerity. But the Church cannot imitate God in this, for she presumes that those who relapse after being once received, are not sincere in their return; hence she does not debar them from the way of salvation, but neither does she protect them from the sentence of death.
-- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
How does the Roman Catholic church now explain its role in the mass murders in which it participated throughout history?
As a human institution, it is not protected from sin. Even popes have been sinners, some quite notorious. One pope was even the illegitimate son of one of his predecessors! Whether we’re speaking of the Spanish Inquisition or the abuse of children by priests and the concurrant cover-up by some bishops, the Church has admitted its mistakes and asked for forgiveness. The expulsion of 150,000 Jews from Spain is nothing compared to those priests and bishops who cooperated with the extermination of the Jews by Nazi Germany, the genocide of Native Americans in North and South America, apartheid in South Africa, and other “crimes against humanity” in which the Church participated either explicitly or implicitly.
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