Rome's Tender Mercies

As some who read this may be aware, the state of Texas has led the nation in executing convicted murderers in recent years. Each time a condemned person is scheduled for the needle, the scene outside the Ellis Unit of the Huntsville Prison is the same. A few dozen anti-death-penalty advocates, many of them Roman Catholics, gather in little groups outside the gates. They all carry posters advocating mercy and denouncing the right of the state to execute justice. Some of the Catholic demonstrators talk about the 'Seamless Garment,' a popular buzzword with Catholic activists.

In a speech he gave in 1983, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago, put forth the argument that every aspect of life is a component of a 'seamless garment.' Catholics understand this to mean that any affront to life is equivalent to any other. In other words, under the seamless garment concept, there is no real moral difference among such things as abortion, legal execution, homelessness, social and political problems, etc. Bernardin advocated that Catholic social and political action be guided by a 'consistent life ethic.' This concept has been embraced by the American bishops and the seamless garment has been an underlying principle in many pastoral letters.

Many who visit this board must be aware of the Roman Church's incredible wealth. Rome has denied her riches. I recall that, back in the 50's, in response to charges that the Catholic Church represented enormous wealth, Rome had all her holdings appraised. The total worth, as I recall, was publicly declared to be something in the neighborhood of $50,000,000.

At the time, Rome was on the defensive, having been challenged to show why she had not used her great wealth to alleviate the poverty and suffering of the world's impoverished millions. In that her real wealth was really not a large sum, the RCC argued, little good would be done by selling off her goods and property to aid the poor.

Can anyone doubt that the Roman Church is obscenely wealthy? What is the value of all the land, forget the buildings, owned by the RCC - much of it in very high-priced urban areas? What are those ancient buildings and stained glass windows worth? What price a statue by Michaelangelo? Or Da Vinci? What would a chain of resort hotels pay for the Castel Gandolfo? How much would New York's Metropolitan Museum give to own Cellini's jewel-encrusted golden model of the Sistene Chapel? If the Pope took his crowns and orbs and other doodads to a pawn shop, how much would he get? And can anyone put a price on those gilded altars and golden ciboria found throughout the Catholic world?

More to the point, how much food, medicine and housing do all those riches represent? How many business enterprises to offer employment for the poor could be launched? Would not such uses of Roman wealth be in keeping with the seamless garment idea?

No doubt there are those who would argue that the magnificent buildings and monuments and works of art are necessary to aid in Catholic worship. These same might suggest that the regalia and palaces of the princes of the church are necessary to their high status in the church. To these I present just a few small questions:

Must God be worshipped in a cathedral? Would not a smaller, less pretentious building serve equally as well?

Must princes of the church live in palaces and wear rich robes and golden adornment in order to serve God? Certainly this is not the example set by Christ, the Apostles and other leaders in the early church.

Why does the RCC need to own a painting by Titian in order to better serve God? If the painting really does help to serve God, would it not be better utilized by selling it to a museum, where all might view it, and using the proceeds to feed the poor?

But enough of this. I drift from my purpose, which is to examine RCC hypocrisy and false doctrine. That Rome wishes to project the image of a nurturing mother to the world's downtrodden might be seen in her official teaching on such things as torture and other 'affronts to life' as are covered in the seamless garment concept.

Catholic spin doctors and revisionist historians would have us believe that, down through the centuries, Mother Church has jealously watched over her flock and used her great power to protect them from abuse. Recently, when the Romish cult was struggling to achieve rapprochement with Tel Aviv in anticipation of Y2K Jubilee events in the Holy Land, we saw more frequent mention of Rome's gentle mercies. Just look at what we may read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2297. Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.[Cf. DS 3722.] -- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., (c) 1994/1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

Well, that certainly is an impressive declaration of the RCC stand against terrorism and the abuse of power. Yep, Rome actively lashes out at repressive political regimes, denounces the use of torture and other acts of violence to human life. If we are to believe the latest spins, she always has been this way, with just a few minor deviations from her tender norm. And why should we not believe? After all, does not the Catholic Church claim to be semper idem - always the same?

Catholic apologists and historians acknowledge that there may have been a few abuses of ecclesiastic power during the Dark Ages, but not nearly so many as critics would have us believe.

History records that, for centuries, the Roman church maintained a reign of terror throughout much of the Western world. The annals of humanity hold references to many monsters -- indescribably evil men such as Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Artaxerxes III, Herod the Great, Caligula, Stalin and Hitler. Each of these established and maintained his authority by the liberal use of terrorism. Yet, evil as they were, none of these beasts can match the enduring horrors that Mother Church unleashed across the world. It must be admitted, of course, that perhaps they could have, had they remained in power as long as the Roman papacy has.

As the Christian faith spread throughout the Roman Empire, it was met with fierce opposition by the pagans. God alone can know how many men, women and children were martyred because of their faith during the first 300 years or so after Christ's advent. The last great effort to bring an end to Christians and their faith began on February 23, 303 AD. This was the Roman holiday known as Terminalia. For some ten years, the Romans used every imaginable device to wipe out followers of the new faith. Torture, fire, swords, wild beasts, crosses, poison and starvation all were used to kill those who would not deny Christ and sacrifice to Caesar as their lord. An excellent, and well footnonted study of Diocletian's persecution may be read at:

Shortly after Constantine came to power, he issued the Edict of Milan (313 AD), a document that legitimized Christian worship and, in effect, made it the state religion.

When Constantine, who considered himself head of the state (Christian) church had consolidated his power in Rome, the local bishops were encouraged in their until-then unsuccessful efforts to arrogate to themselves leadership of the young church.

For the most part, the Roman bishops exercised their growing political and ecclesiastical power to crush opposition and tighten their control over what now had become something far different from the Christian church founded by the Apostles

Though there were several recorded occasions of persecution against dissidents within the body that came to be known as the Roman Catholic Church, institutionalized rooting out of 'heretics' was not really known until the Roman cult had consolidated its power in the early Middle Ages. By this time, heresy was considered both a religious and a secular crime. A heretic was defined as someone who deliberately and persistently denied an article of truth of the Catholic faith.

Such heresies became widespread in the 11th and 12th centuries, to the extent that the Lateran Council of 1139 AD vigorously urged the secular rulers to act against heresy. For the most part the secular powers, many of whom would have met the the RCC definition of heretics, did little. The Lateran Council of 1179 AD repeated the demand for action to suppress heresy, pleading for the use of force and offering tempting rewards to those who murdered heretics. In 1184 AD, Pope Lucius II tried a new approach. He established penalties for heresy that included exile, confiscation, and loss of civil rights. Lucius II also threatened unwilling secular rulers with excommunication and interdict. This pope set the stage for the coming establishment of the Inquisition when he declared that, since under current law a bishop was to try an accused heretic in open court, he must now also seek out heretics. The Latin term for a search is 'inquisitio.'

In spite of all the papal pressure urging them to move aggressively against heretics, very few secular rulers did. They were not concerned with matters of heresy.

Yet this is a linchpin for the arguments of RCC spin doctors and revisionist historians, who claim that Mother Church never killed anyone - that the burnings and other heinous crimes wrongfully attributed to the Inquisition actually were carried out by secular authorities.

Now, it is quite possible that the bulk of these RCC spokesmen are not guilty of the sin of lying. After all, RCC doctrine declares that a person is not guilty of sin if he is not aware that he is in violation of God's law.

In 1224, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II issued the Constitution of Lombardy, which prescribed the death sentence for heresy. When Gregory IX ascended to Peter's Throne, he had this provision copied into the Papal Registry and founded what we now know as 'The Inquisition.' Originally, the Inquisition was intended to deal with the heretical Cathari and Waldenses, but later extended its interest to include witches, fortune tellers, blasphemers, and other sacrilegious persons, with particular interest paid to Jews.

Catholic spin doctors and revisionist historians would have us believe Gregory IX established the Inquisition for the benevolent purpose of protecting accused heretics from mob violence and to provide the heretics with instruction to help them return to the bosom of Mother Church. That this is an accepted myth today has been evidenced on the Internet by claims of Roman apologists that the RCC never exercised the death penalty against heretics. There may be some truth in this, though I have not researched this particular claim.

What I do know, and have read from ancient documents available on the Web, is that Roman Catholic authorities, with alarming frequency, delivered heretics convicted by the Inquisition into the hands of civil authorities for execution of horrible death sentences. I suppose that, like Pilate, the inquisitors and, by extension, Mother Rome, considered themselves absolved of responsibility by letting someone else do their killing.

That Rome's bloody popes expected heretics to be killed is clear from the words of Innocent III,

According to civil law criminals convicted of treason are punished with death and their goods are confiscated. With how much more reason then should they who offend Jesus, Son of the Lord God, by deserting their faith, be cut off from the Christian communion and stripped of their goods.--Canon Vacanard S.J., Inquisition, Longmans Green and co. 1907):

Such ideas had not, of course, originated with Innocent III. From the time she was strong enough to persecute dissenters, the Roman Catholic Church exercised that power frequently and with deadly efficiency. For example, in 1017 AD, 13 priests and canons of the diocese of Orleans were convicted of Manichaeism and burned alive.

'Cathari,' the Greek word meaning "the Pure," was a generic label applied to the more important heretical sects, which shared many common values, such as regarding the Roman Catholic Church to be a corrupt human institution. Generally, the Cathari rejected Catholic sacraments, rituals and hierarchy - and nurtured a particular loathing for monks and nuns. They sought to return to the pure teaching of Christ: strict chastity, brotherly love, voluntary poverty and an ascetic lifestyle.

In the early days of the second millenium, Euope was very close to rejecting Roman Catholicism in favor of a return to more primitive Christianity. The Cathari were to be found throughout the region, and their numbers were growing rapidly. In Italy, they were called ''Patarenes.' French and Belgian Puritans were known as 'Publicans.' They had other names in other places.

The Beguines and Beghards, groups founded by a Belgian priest in the thirteenth century, were Cathari, or Puritans. Similar to the Essenes of Jesus' time, they created a network of ascetic communities that spread across Europe. In belief and practice, they were a lot like the Waldenses of the 13th and 14th centuries. Their only heresy was that they attempted to live as they believed Christ had called men to live. They attempted literally to obey every word of Christ. For this, they were branded as heretics and horribly persecuted. These poor souls were burned in batches. In Germany, in 1211 AD, for example, about 80 were immolated at one time.

Other important Puritan groups were the Lollards, the followers of John Wyclif in England, and the Hussites of Bohemia. Wyclif's heresy, if you will, was a return to primitive Christianity. Lollard teaching made its way to Bohemia where, through the preaching of John Hus, a large part of the population took it to heart. Hussites, as they were called, denounced corrupt priests, monks and nuns, challenged the idea of priestly celibacy, confession, the eucharist and the rituals of Roman Catholicism. The movement was so strong that it took 200 years of war and savage persecution to suppress them

A short look at the history of the Albigenses may help the reader to more clearly understand how ruthless Mother Church can be when her power and income are at stake.

In southern France, there is a region centered around the city of Albi. The vast majority of the residents of this region had turned their backs on the Roman Church and were following the 'new' version of the Christian religion they had received from Bogomile missionaries who came to them from the Balkans.

The best known Catholic preacher of the period, 'Saint" Bernard of Clairvaux, made a swing through the region in 1147 AD. He found empty churches and no one interested in listening to what he was preaching. The religion of the Bogomiles continued to grow, spreading over France, Belgium, western Germany, Spain and northern Italy. Things were not looking good for the continuation of Roman Catholic hegemony and the popes were beginning to worry (as may be discovered in the reports sent to Rome and included in the "Annales" of Cardinal Baronius.

One pope after another attempted to convince the secular rulers of the region to crush the Cathari, but no one was really interested. Alexander III, addressing the Lateran Council of 1179 AD, urged the use of force against them. It was at this time that Rome hit upon an idea that indeed did induce worldly powers to take up arms against the heretics. Alexander III granted princes the right to imprison heretics and to confiscate their property. Being a religious man and controller of the RCC's self-granted power to forgive sin and remit punishment, Alexander III promised two years' remission of penance and other privileges to all who would take up arms against the enemies of the Catholic church.

Alexander III's program worked for a time and, in many areas Puritans were persecuted -- suffering imprisonment or immolation. Not in the south of France, however, where the nobility favored the honest and industrious Cathari. Life was good for the Cathari in southern France. In 1167 AD, the leader of the Paulician sect - which had birthed the Bogomile sect which in turn gave rise to the Albigensian sect - travelled to Albi. There, he convened a great synod, consecrated five new bishops and gave the religion a splendid public triumph.

No sooner did Innocent III seat himself on Peter's Throne than he began to send his agents to urge princes and bishops to persecute the heretics. For nine years, these monks and preachers importuned, but their pleadings were ineffective. In 1207 AD, Innocent III instructed his chief legate, Pierre de Castelnau, to undertake a military campaign against the Albigenses. This was a great opportunity for legitimized looting and pillaging, and the bulk of the lesser nobility seized the opportunity to plunder the Albigensian countryside.

Something went wrong, and the Legate was murdered. The pope, though he later admitted he had no evidence, accused an Albigensian noble - Raymond, Count of Toulouse - of the crime. Innocent III sent out a call to arms and made dire threats against any Christian prince or knight who failed to respond. Given the promise of riches to be gained by plundering the affluent Albigensian towns and cities, some 20,000 armored knights and 200,000 foot soldiers swooped down on the heretics. The leaders of this 'pilgrim army' were the Abbot of Citeaux, a cleric every bit as savage as Torquemada, and an impoverished adventurer called Simon de Montfort (now one of the demigods listed in the RCC pantheon of saints).

After two full years of ruthless bloodletting, the Albigensians were still so strong that Innocent III renewed his 'holy crusade' against them and, in 1214 AD, summoned an additional 100,000 'pilgrims' to join in the pogrom. The gentle shepherd and successor to Peter's apostolate known to history as Innocent III boasted that his enforcers took 500 towns and castles from the heretics, claiming they essentially butchered every man, woman and child in a town when they captured it. Ladies of the nobility, together with their children, were thrown into wells and stones were dropped in on top of them. The pope's heroic warriors hung captured knights in batches of 80. When the city of Beziers fell, soldiers inquired of the pope's agent how they could distinguish between heretics and good Catholics. The Cistercian abbot responded, "Kill them all, God will know His own." And so, some 20 to 40 thousand surviving men, women and children were put to the sword.

Raymond of Toulouse, the scapegoat chosen by Innocent III to carry the blame for the Legate's murder, likely knew what was in the wind. He turned himself in, hoping to spare his people, and submitted to Rome before the 'crusade' began. The pope instructed his legates to "deceive him and pass to the extirpation of the other heretics." (Innocent II, Letters, Vol 9, 232).

Rome's spin doctors, of course, dispute these accounts and deny the numbers, but that means nothing. The figures come to us from contemporary Catholic sources

There is no way to calculate the total number of Manichaeans, Arians, Priscillianists, Paulicians, Bogomiles, Cathari, Waldensians, Albigensians, witches, Lollards, Hussites, Jews and Protestants tortured and murdered in terrible ways for their rebellion against Mother Church. The number surely must run into millions. Add to these the even greater number of those who were tortured, imprisoned or beggared and the final count of victims, around the world, must run into the tens of millions.

Contrary to popular belief, the "Inquisition" was not a monolithic structure. There were, in fact, several Inquisitions. At first, the Inquisition was intended to deal with heresies and, if we are to believe Roman historians, to try to bring them home again. Soon, however, the virtually limitless power of the Inquisitors was used to persecute Jews, confiscate property, enforce church authority over secular rulers, etc.

Dissatisfied with the success of the Inquisition, Pope Innocent IV authorized the use of torture during inquiries. Under interrogation by Dominican or Franciscan inquisitors, screaming victims were stretched, burned, pierced and broken on fiendish engines of torment to force confessions of disbelief and to compel them to identify fellow transgressors. One inquisitor, Robert le Bourge, sent 183 people to the stake in a single week. Tomas de Torquemada was Inquisitor-general of Arragon from 1483 to 1498. Chronicler Llorente estimates that, during Torquemada's rule, some 8,800 prisoners of the Inquisition were burned alive.

The Roman Church never really ended the Inquisition, though on paper it was terminated in 1834. As kings and emperors were replaced by parliaments and federal governments, the Catholic Church lost her ability to compel rulers to do her bidding. She backed off from her aggressive program to crush all opposition in her efforts to dominate the world and went underground, as it were. Though the Inquisition no longer exists by name, the organizational machinery continues to operate within the Curia. Now known as the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, it's Prefect continues to wield great power within the Catholic Church. In those nations where she still is able to influence political authorities, Mother Church continues her efforts to eliminate all opposition. On that terrible day when the great world powers are no longer able to suppress the ambition and savagery of the Beast on the Tiber, there can be no doubt she will again loose her 'Hounds of God', as the Dominican inquisitors were called. God have mercy on the world when that day comes.

The Roman Catholic Catechism, promulgated in 1994 by Pope John Paul II by means of an apostolic constitution, makes it quite clear that terrorism and the use of torture, kidnapping and the like are things Mother Church abhors. Since The Roman Catholic Church was, we are told, established by Christ and ruled by a long line of Peter's successors, it seems reasonable that her claim to be always the same is valid. After all, the Holy Spirit, Whom we are told takes an active hand in guiding the doctrine and doings of His church, is God and God we know is unchanging. Therefore, the Roman church, we should expect, has always been opposed to terrorism.

Oh? Really?

What was necessary to brand a man or woman as being a heretic? Not much, perhaps a couple of denunciations by witnesses who never confronted the accused. Or someone's dreams. Or envy at the success of another's business. Almost anything. Once accused, the shadowy agents of the Inquisition began their bloody business.

Usually, they came at night, after the household was dark and everyone was sleeping. There would be a knock at the door and, when the householder opened it, he would see the agents of the Inquisition waiting without. The man, or woman, would be ordered to go with the agents. Everyone in the household surely knew what was happening, but they dared not utter a single word of protest, lest they also be charged and taken away. This terror was a powerful tool of the Inquisition, for no one, not king nor slave, could know if or when that dreaded knock would come.

To add to the terror, the Inquisition operated under a cloak of secrecy, which certainly engendered a terrible sense of insecurity among the populace and caused men's imaginations to exacerbate, if that were possible, the frightening truth.

Once within the chambers of the Inquisition, the accused's chances for acquittal were virtually nil. Oh, there would be a trial, of course, but due process was unheard of. The whole proceedings, which were conducted in the strictest secrecy, were but mockeries of justice. The victim could not even know the names of his accusers, much less confront them. In all probability, he never knew the specifics of the charges against him, other than that he was accused of being a heretic.

The poor soul would be required to take an oath to tell the truth concerning himself and all other persons who shared his heretical beliefs. Should he refuse to swear, every device was used to compel or trick him into condemning himself and others.

At this point, the Holy Office would turn to the application of physical torment. It mattered not whether the man had answered fully and truthfully every question put to him. Regardless of his responsiveness, he would be declared a refractory heretic. Following a few hypocritical declarations of the Catholic Church's love and concern for his soul and of the inquisitors' heart-felt desire to deliver him from doctrinal error in order that he might be saved, the poor soul was delivered to his tormentors.

I have read, in the Medieval Sourcebook, translations of instructions to inquisitors to deceive their victims, after having tortured them for a time, by promising to end their torment and to spare their lives if they will but confess their heresy and denounce other heretics. Should they not do that, the torture was to be continued, perhaps unto death. If the victim of Rome's tender mercies should provide the desired confessions, the torture was to be ended and the unfortunate delivered over for execution of just sentence. For those who would know more of these things, there are many ancient documents on the Web, including transcripts of 'trials.'

Rome's defenders claim that only a few were tortured or burned alive by the Inquisition. I suppose the gullible will accept that. After all, we have seen that the Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns torture and the use of terror. But what do Catholic writers have to say.

Jesuit historian Juan Antonio Llorente, writing early in the 19th century and drawing upon the original documents of the archives of the Supreme Council of the Inquisition and those of subordinate tribunals of the Holy Office, calculated that between 1481 AD and 1808 AD the Spanish Inquisition condemned more than 341,000 persons - just in Spain. When one considers that this tribunal operated in all the foreign territories under Spanish dominion, it is certain the total number of the damned was considerably higher. (J.A. Llorente, A Critical History Of The Inquisition Of Spain, English edition published in 1823, reprinted by John Lilburne, Williamstown, Mass, 1967)

But isn't all this talk of Inquisition tortures and murders really just Protestant propaganda intended to vilify the Pilgrim Church? Sure, perhaps there were a few incidents of abuse, but nothing really major. After all, the Middle Ages were violent times.

Let's see.

In 182, the Spanish Cortes ordered the doors of the b uilding occupied by the Inquisition. Twenty or so prisoners were found confined there, one of whom had been scheduled to be executed on the following day.

His punishment was to be death by the pendulum. The method of thus destroying the victim is as follows:--The victim is fastened in a groove upon a table, on his back; suspended above him is a pendulum, the edge of which is sharp, and it is so constructed as to become longer with every movement. The wretch sees this implement of destruction swinging to and fro above him, and every moment the keen edge approaching nearer and nearer: at length it cuts the skin of his nose, and gradually cuts on, until life is extinct. . . .This, let it be remembered, was a punishment of the secret tribunal, A.D. 1820!!! (Cyrus Mason, A History of the Holy Catholic Inquisition, p. 78)

To be condemned to such a hideous death, a person had first to be found guilty of one of the crimes the Inquisition was charged to root out and punish. Confession was the preferred proof.

And how did inquisitors go about obtaining such confessions? Well, since Pope Innocent IV had authorized the use of torture to facilitate the activities of the Inquisition back in the 13th Century, Catholic tormentors had refined their techniques. The 'interrogation technique' apparently most used was the infamous 'strapado.' The way this worked was to bind the victim's hands behind his back and then hoist him to the rafters by a rope tied at the wrists. Sometimes, a heavy stone was tied to the accused's feet. Then, after he had hung for a while, the rope would be released, allowing the victim to fall a foot or two before being abruptly halted when the rope's slack was taken up. This lifting and dropping would continue for so long as the torturers chose. The use of the strapado resulted in the dislocation of the bones in the arms and shoulders, with resulting horrific pain. Frequently, the tightly-bound ropes would cut through the unfortunate's skin and muscle, right to the bone.

The inquisitors sometimes would force their victim to lie on the floor. Then, they would rub his feet with lard and place them very near a fire until he was ready to confess to anything they demanded.

There were other commonly used tortures, but these suffice to make the point that Mother Church was merciless with those who defied her nurturing authority.

Once the bloody inquisitors had finished with their victims, they were assembled, along with the clergy and the townspeople, in a public square or great cathedral. After a reading of the sentences, the unrepentant were delivered to the secular authorities - WITH A RECOMMENDATION FOR MERCY. These same secular authorities were then reminded of the papal threat that, unless those unfortunates were burned at the stake within five days, the prince or magistrate would be excommunicated and an interdict laid upon the city or kingdom. At this point, the papal inquisitors ceremoniously washed their hands of the affair.

Is there water enough in the world to cleanse the bloody hands of the Roman church?

Not everyone found guilty by the Inquisition was doomed to the stake. Some were sent to the galleys for life. Others went to prison or were flogged. Those condemned to die in the flames were allowed to languish in prisons until a sufficient number had been gathered to make a proper 'spectacle' - one that would remind everyone of the terrible power of the Roman Catholic church.

In Spain and Portugal, burning at the stake was called an Auto de Fe, or Act of Faith. When such events were scheduled, they were conducted as formal Catholic ceremonies, complete with Masses celebrated by princes of the Church. These ceremonies always were conducted on Sunday, as a further indication of the holiness of the occasion.

For more than four centuries the Auto de Fe was a national holiday in Spain. Kings and queens, princes and princesses and their courts would be there. People would gather from all around the countryside to watch the goings on, which had the appearance of an obscene carnival. The condemned, dressed in fantastic costumes, were marched to the site of their immolation as the Jesuits who walked with them shouted over and over in their ears that the flames they soon would face were as nothing compared to the fires of Hell. Should any of the unfortunates attempt to speak out in his defense or to praise the Lord, he would be ruthlessly gagged.

Once in the appointed place, the victims were chained to stakes. Should any of them announce that he was a true Catholic and wished to die in his Catholic faith, he would be granted the mercy of strangulation before being burned. All were burned, whether alive or dead, and their bodies reduced to ashes.

Even the methods of burning were unnecessarily cruel and designed to prolong the victims' agonies. After the condemned had been chained to the stake, shrubs, sometimes still green, and wood were laid around the stake. The greener the wood, the slower the fire and the longer the agony suffered by the victims. It was not unusual for the lower limbs to be roasted long before the fire claimed the victim's life.

Tender mercies? Yeah. Sure

Seamless garment? Give me a break!

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