The Inquisition

Hosted byIan Punnett

The Inquisition

About the show

Noted historian and author Jonathan Kirsch discussed the history of the Inquisition. Kirsch defined the Inquisition as a joint bureaucracy of church and state authorities charged with the task of punishing anybody who failed to embrace the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. It operated all over Western and Southern Europe, Kirsch said. The Inquisition formally began in the early 13th century, after the Pope's failed Crusade against Christians in France (Cathars), and remained in existence for the next 600 years, until 1834, he explained. Though no longer conducting any Inquisitions, the Vatican's Office of the Inquisition still remains, Kirsch noted, but was renamed in 1908 to the Office of the Doctrine of the Faith.

According to Kirsch, a diversity in religious practices and beliefs during the 1200s jumpstarted the Inquisition. Punishments such as fines, compelled pilgrimages, imprisonment and even burning at the stake were doled out to anyone who dissented from the Roman Catholic Church. Kirsch spoke about the forms of torture used in that time and said the phrase "to the third degree" comes to us from the Inquisition, when five different levels or degrees of torture could be implemented to compel confessions. He also pointed out that the Friar Inquisitors did not actually torture or execute convicted heretics. Instead, those tasks were delegated by the Church to civil authorities.

Kirsch called the Inquisition "a self-sustaining machine for persecution," as the seized property of supposed heretics provided a stream of income to those in charge. Kirsch shared the example of the Knights Templar, who were accused of heretical beliefs as an excuse for King Phillip of France to take their treasure and wipe them out. Kirsch also talked about how certain features of the Inquisition have been copied over the centuries, most notably in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, as well as the United States' use of torture in its War on Terror.

Smiley Face Killers

In the first hour, former 5 Eyewitness News reporter Kristi Piehl provided an update on her investigation into a strange series of drowning deaths attributed to a gang of murderers known as the Smiley Face Killers. Since her last appearance, the FBI has interviewed a prisoner in Minnesota who provided key information about this case to retired New York detectives Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte. According to Piehl, the FBI has determined the prisoner's testimony is not credible and the theory of a gang of murderers targeting young men across the country is likely also not true. The FBI has disclosed their findings in a letter to Wisconsin Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, she noted.


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