Thomas Lucente: Inquisition, Crusades not comparable to Islamic terrorism

By Thomas Lucente - [email protected]

Another terrorist attack by Muslims, another deluge of excuse-making, misdirection and false comparisons by some Americans.

It boggles the mind why so many Americans are so bent on excusing atrocities by radical Islamists.

After every well-publicized event, we are deluged with the false comparison to the Medieval Catholic Church. The church, the argument goes, also committed atrocities, in particular the Crusades and the various Inquisitions.

It is disgusting to see someone try to excuse an atrocity by pointing to some other atrocity by some other group during some other period of time. Complete and utter nonsense.

To make things worse, the comparisons are simply false.

The Crusades were not a religious atrocity. The Crusades were nothing more than an appropriate response by the Western world to Islamic imperialism.

In what became known as his farewell address, Muhammad said, “I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘There is no God but Allah.’” And the Islamists obeyed those marching orders as Islamic armies began a conquest of the Western world.

The Crusades were a defensive response to Islamic imperialism. They were not missions of conversion by the sword as Islamic armies were.

The military, a secular force sanctioned by the pope, largely conducted itself in accordance with the rules and traditions of the day. Every army, then and now, might find elements that commit war crimes and other atrocities. It wasn’t the norm and it certainly was not sanctioned.

There is no comparison between a just war waged in accordance with international standards and some nut job walking into a cafe and blowing himself up killing women and children in the process.

Nor were the Inquisitions comparable.

The Inquisitions were simply church courts and were operated with the same due process safeguards followed by secular courts.

There was some torture and a few executions, to be sure. But that was how Medieval justice operated. Indeed, the inquisitorial courts were actually less horrendous than the secular courts and used torture infrequently. Given a choice, one would choose to have his or her case heard by the Inquisition than by the government courts of the day.

Additionally, the courts only had jurisdiction over adherents. The Inquisition was not used against non-Catholics as a means of gaining converts. It was used against Catholics who violated canonical law. There was an investigation, a trial, and a finding of innocence or guilt.

That is as far as the courts went. The church executed no one. After guilt was established, the convict was handed over to secular courts for punishment based on local laws, though church officials certainly knew the likely punishment for any given crime.

While there were some executions, they were rare (heresy was a capital offense only for repeat offenders). More commonly someone was executed in effigy, where a straw man was burned. In 500 years, the scholarly estimate is around 6,000 or so executions, though exact numbers are hard to determine.

That comes to about one execution a month. To put that in perspective, the average number of executions in the United States every month since 1977 is three. That means the U.S. is executing people at about three times the rate of the Inquisitions.

Were there abuses? Certainly, the most notable being the May 30, 1431, execution of Joan of Arc (who was exonerated 25 years later by an inquisitorial court in part because the rules of due process were not followed). Where power is concerned, there is always the possibility of abuse. But it was not widespread.

Should we look at these courts with disgust? Of course. They were horrendous, as were their secular counterparts. But they were objects of their time. In some ways the Inquisition was ahead of its time. At some point, it stopped conducting witch trials and urged secular courts to follow suit. While secular courts executed some 60,000 witches, less than 500 of those came from the Inquisition.

Regardless, it is not comparable to Islamic terrorism. It was a court with due process, such as it was. How is that morally equivalent to gunning down women and children in the street or blowing up an airplane?

Finally, after failing in those arguments, the apologist often resorts to repeating the myth of the “Islamic Golden Age.”

Nearly every advancement in the Islamic world at that time was created by conquered peoples, or the dhimmi as they were called. It was usually Jewish and Christian Greeks who provided much of Islamic culture and the scientific and mathematical advancements came from conquered Hindus.

Indeed, the earliest scientific book in the language of Islam was a book on medicine written by a Syrian Christian priest in Alexandria, translated into Arabic by a Persian Jewish physician. The father of algebra was a Persian and Arabic numerals were created by a Hindu. Very little in the way of scientific or technological advancement came from Muslims themselves.

There is a great story that during the historically significant Battle of Lepanto on Oct. 7, 1571, the sailors found that the flagship of Ali Pasha contained his entire fortune. There was no concept of banking in the Islamic world so he had to lug his fortune with him or risk losing it.

Another example is slavery. After the fall of Rome, the church essentially eliminated slavery from Europe. However, slavery thrived in the Muslim world during the so-called Islamic Golden Age. Even today, it is accepted and practiced in various parts of the Islamic world.

This is not meant to excuse Christian actions, but merely to point out that there is no moral equivalence to the behavior of radical Islamists.

It is unclear why some feel the need to justify or rationalize Islamic atrocities by trying to falsely malign Christian history but it is quite disturbing.

By Thomas Lucente

[email protected]

Thomas J. Lucente Jr. is an Ohio attorney and night editor of The Lima News. Reach him by telephone at 567-242-0398, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @ThomasLucente.

Thomas J. Lucente Jr. is an Ohio attorney and night editor of The Lima News. Reach him by telephone at 567-242-0398, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @ThomasLucente.