Inquisition was a mistake but legally justified, claims Vatican official
The News Telegraph is reporting that the Vatican is preparing for fresh controversy over the Inquisition after allowing an official to appear in a television documentary to offer a defence of the "Holy Terror".
The Rev Joseph Di Noia, the Under-secretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, admits in a television series starting tonight that the use of torture and public burnings were "mistakes".
But the American-born cleric argues that these methods of suppressing heresy were explicable in the context of the times, when people believed passionately in heaven and hell.
Fr Di Noia's gloss on history is significant because the Congregation is the successor body to the Inquisition and, until last year, it was headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
The late Pope John Paul II apologised for the Inquisition in 2002.
He said the Church should show penitence for "accepting methods of intolerance or even violence in the service of truth".
The four-part documentary on the UKTV History channel draws on research gleaned from Vatican files only opened to scrutiny in 1998.
It highlights periods of the persecution that began in the 13th century and ended only in the late 1800s.
The Inquisition was established by Pope Gregory in 1233 as a special court to help curb the influence of beliefs deemed to deviate from official Church doctrine.
Interviewed in the documentary, The Secret Files of the Inquisition, Fr Di Noia says:
[And this is the really good part] "It was a mistake to torture people. However, torture was regarded as a perfectly justified, legitimate way of producing evidence and it was therefore legally justified."