"The history of the inquisitions that existed, and 'The Inquisition', which did not. The Inquisition Myth became a handy club with which to abuse Catholicism and Catholic history."
Source: Catholic American Thinker
By Vic Biorseth
Reformers on the continent and in England and Ireland formed their own ruthless inquisitions against Catholics and against other sects of Protestantism. Luther and Calvin preached the right of the state to protect Protestant society by purging it of false religion. Many were banished, and many were executed for “heresy.” Conservative estimates put Catholic executions in England and Ireland alone in the multiple thousands, and many more fled; the crime they were accused of was refusing to convert to Protestantism.
So we see that if the inquisition myth (or truth) provides evidence that a given confession is not or no longer of God, a charge often made against the Catholic Church, then that charge applies equally to Protestantism. The truth of a religious confession must be proved on other grounds.
Catholic Inquisitions have a much longer heritage, going back to well before the Reformation. The root of the inquisitions, which was the imperative to oppose heresy in the community, is as old as the Church itself, and, as we have seen in the above Scripture quotations, was even exercised in the time of Christ and His Apostles, before much New Testament Scripture was even written, let alone recognized as being Scripture. The Christian position toward heresy was softening from the Old Testament penalties, as shown in 1 Tim. 1:20 and in Titus 3:10, toward excommunication or banishment from the community rather than torture and death. Although punishment for heresy was always hotly contested within the Church, with high ranking Churchmen on both sides of the argument, the prevailing official position of the Church solidified into non lethal punishments early on.
The Apostles were convinced of the need for them to protect and transmit an absolutely undefiled Deposit of Faith produced by Divine Revelation, and that any teaching at odds with that Deposit, even if it came from their own mouths, or from the mouths of Angels, was to be opposed as heresy. But, in 1 Tim. 1:20 and Titus 3:10, they did not call for the Old Testament punishments of scourging and death. For the first three centuries of the Church, it was a moot point anyway, since the Church was persecuted, largely underground, and had no real authority or enforcement capability.
Terttulian said that the natural law instructed man to follow the voice of individual conscience in the practice of religion, since the acceptance of religion was strictly a matter of free will and not of compulsion. Already, Christian dissidents had suffered torture, burning and death based on the Old Testament laws, but the larger Church, in its worldly imperfection, was turning from it. Origen wrote of the need to distinguish between the law which the Jews received from Moses and the law given to Christians by Jesus Christ. The former was binding on the Jews, and the latter on Christians, including the Jewish Christians, such as the original Apostles themselves. Jewish Christians who were fully Christian could no longer conform to all of the Mosaic law and thus they could no longer burn, stone or otherwise kill violators of it. And if Jewish Christians could not impose the severest penalties on Jewish violators, it made no real sense for any Christians to impose such severe penalties on Christian violators.
That the Church, with the bishop of Rome in the lead, chose the milder punishments for heresy is a simple matter of historical fact. That is not to say, however, that there were not many renowned Catholic bishops who disagreed and called for the death penalty for heresy, with the penalty to be imposed by civil authority.... read more here!