Do Christians Know About Malleus Maleficarum? About Inquisition?

Witch BurningsEver the trouble-maker, I found myself responding to a question posed on Yahoo! this morning. The full question was – “Do Christians know about Malleus Maleficarum – Hammer of the Witches ? Know About Inquisition?” Well… no. Not really. Most Christians don’t know what the Malleus Maleficarum is, if they’ve heard about it at all. And most of those who have are fairly determined to regard it as an obscure work from a different time. The familiar restrain is “We’re not like that now. Really. We’re not.”

What followed the question were several of the expected responses from people who prefer to think of the Malleus Maleficarum as an anomoly which has little to do with modern religion.

  • “‘Bad’ or perhaps evil Christians exist as do good ones.”
  • “Catholicism was behind that evil stuff. Do not blame Christians. There is a huge difference.”
  • “That was the church of Rome that did that, way different than a true Christian.”

Here’s what I think:

Christians have tried for centuries to distance themselves from the Malleus Maleficarum. Baptists and other denominations have said “Oh, that was those wacky Catholics”. I notice someone cast the Malleus in light of “bad Christians” vs “good Christians”. Most frequently what you hear is “that was a long time ago”. The fact remains that the Inquisitions lasted from the 1100’s all the way up to the mid 1800’s, and were most notoriously active during the 1400’s and 1500’s. During that time, if you were a Christian, you were a Catholic. The first Baptist church was formed in 1609. Methodists didn’t come along until about 1790. And Protestants only date back to 1520 or so. So, basically, the “bad Christians” vs “good Christians” argument doesn’t hold up, not does the “wacky” Catholics argument unless one concedes that all of the major alternatives (ie Baptist, Protestant, Methodist, Mormon, etc) are relatively recent creations (during the last 500 years or so). I guess all I’m saying is that it’s hard to distance yourself from the Malleus Maleficarum without rejecting 1,500 years of Christianity because Christians then were “those wacky Catholics”.

It’s understandable why people would want to distance their faith from the Malleus Maleficarum. Another technique that Christians use to distance themselves from the work is to suggest that it was added to the Catholic Church’s list of banned books. That much is true, but not entirely. The Malleus WAS banned by the Church, but the part those people leave out is that it wasn’t banned until over 70 YEARS past its first publication, during which time it was second in popularity only to The Bible and during which it served as a de facto handbook for witch hunters, Inquisitors and even the secular courts.

Catholics have a vested interest in distancing themselves from the Malleus Maleficarum for obvious reasons, just as they’re none-too-happy about discussing the Holy Wars. Members of more recent denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Protestants and Mormons are afforded a convenient escape from any related blame by pointing out that the atrocities of the Inquisitions, for which the Malleus Maleficarum bears some blame, were committed by Catholics, not “true Christians” as the more recent denominations call themselves. Pretty much, no one is interested in taking blame for an infamous work, and dozens of convenient explanations and re-direction exist to absolve modern Christians from taking ownership of a work which was born of the Christian Inquisition. Who could blame them? Germans distance themselves from Mein Kampf for the same reason. In the end, if most Christians don’t know about the Malleus Maleficarum, it’s because most Christians don’t WANT to know about it, and most Christian organizations and churches don’t want to talk about it. Most Christians want the Malleus Maleficarum consigned to the dustbin of history where they think it belongs, where uncomfortable questions about culpability and blame can be avoided, and where modern Christians can absolve themselves of any remorse or guilt over a work which helped Christians commit some of the most horrific acts in the name of God that have ever been recorded in human history.

In short, most Christians don’t know about the “Malleus Maleficarum” because most Christians don’t WANT to know about the Malleus Maleficarum.

What do you think?

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About Wicasta

Depending upon whom you ask, Wicasta Lovelace is an author, musician, artist, web designer and/or delusional lunatic (which one he is at any given moment depends upon the day of the week, really). You can find him on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. Wicasta is working on several novels and recording music with his band, Windhaven.

8 Responses to Do Christians Know About Malleus Maleficarum? About Inquisition?

  1. Dawnjinx February 9, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    I’ve just seen this on the yahoo page, and then here, and I feel the need to comment somewhere because it alarms me to think my perspective would never be imagined. I can understand the points that have been made, but none of them in any way represent my perspective, and since people are talking about what “Christians” do, I’ll say what I think.

    I’m a female Catholic historian. As I find I always have to say after telling strangers I’m Catholic, I don’t believe everything that the Church officially states, let alone what it used to. And for the record, I had a thoroughly enjoyable interview last month based on a source from the crusades. I’m happy to discuss those unholy wars. I accept that I’m probably unrepresentative in knowledge – people don’t know about the Malleus just as they don’t know about A La Recherche du Temps Perdu – but I think my attitude’s quite common.

    Regarding the original posts’ claim that it was a torture guide against heretics, pagans and agnostics, Kramer’s main point was how to identify what he believed to be witches who should be killed. The idea that “witches” were people who disagreed with Catholicism is a very difficult interpretation to support.

    Regarding the idea that Christians are wrong to distance themselves from the past simply because there’s so much of it – the number of civilisations and states in which women have had inequivalent legal rights to those of men far outnumbers those in which they have had equal rights. That does not make me wrong in saying I have not discriminated against women. I assure you, no attempt to avoid guilt is involved. In the same way that I bear no guilt for women not being classed as citizens in Classical Athens, I bear no guilt for people being persecuted as witches in Early Modern Europe and America.

    I feel it important to recognize that I’m human just like the people who were at fault in these cases, and in many ways I am at fault for different things which I allow to happen or passively participate in. I recognize this, so I can limit its negative impact.

    I don’t like the Malleus, but neither do I feel any need to ‘distance’ myself from it. It is no closer to me than it is to everyone else.

  2. Stephen June 13, 2012 at 8:01 pm #


    Yes, the bible as translated does say that. Unfortunately, it appears that there were mistakes in early translation and the word “witch” is not correctly applied..

    Regardless of that translation, how many of the people sacrificed as witches do you really think were anything other than misfits or property owners who were in the way?

  3. karma May 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    KGA if you are going to quote the Bible then you should also know that after your selected quote 2 Kings consulted with witches One being Saul and Witch of Endor on the eve of battle and the other being David and the Wise Woman of Tekoa. I grew tired of looking for more ways the Bible flawed in its teachings so please feel free to do so yourself. I also am confused as to weather or not you are trying to relay that you think the inquisition ever happened or not is that indeed what you meant by “You really should read about Dr. Jeffrey Burton Russell who can prove by way of his research that most of middle age history has been bullsh*t that we have been spoon fed by the anti-christians since the turn of the 19th century”?

  4. Kga April 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    What is wrong with the MM? Does the bible not say “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”? Not saying that all are but I can not stand how people calling themselves Christians can simply pick and choose what they like about scripture. Catholics and protestants held trials of these sorts. What I am getting at is if you are a Christian and take the bible LITERALLY ( which, by default you must if you call yourself a “Christian”) than you would accept that God, Christ, satan, demons, angels, evil and witches are real whether or not they are as prevalent today.

    Another aspect of this that I find hilarious is that while so called “witch” phenomenon is not in our world today (except the ridiculous idea that people reenacting butchered up druid rituals i.e. wicca) who is to say it wasn’t? You really should read about Dr. Jeffrey Burton Russell who can prove by way of his research that most of middle age history has been bullsh*t that we have been spoon fed by the anti-christians since the turn of the 19th century. Call me an as* but I do not condemn or disbelieve anything until I have exhausted myself researching it. Otherwise I do not believe I would have the right to speak.

  5. tgr April 8, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    I laugh when people blame everything on Catholics. I don’t recall from my history lessons that there were any Catholics in, say, Salem. It’s always easier to blame other people instead of admitting that it was I who f****d up. Me being atheist, by the way.

  6. Jonathan Dearborn March 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    I missed the question, my pardon please. I fell many educated Christians know,but it goes to the part of the mind that holds, “Not my fault” information. Often it is negative thought to them,etc. Such it is with all genocide,to allow it is to ignore it, to ignore it is to take part.Uneducated Christians, honestly could care less,they think thatis over,when it is just in other forms now.

  7. Jonathan Dearborn March 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I understand what you mean Sun, I ponder.this often. Many ways.Orwell wrote them down, truth is lies,disinformation,many ways.As it was then, so is it now, torture, manipulation, hysteria,and many more work well. What I am politely saying is I think we both know how it has been done and still is,no? Would you be as impressed by more modern genocide,i.e.Hitler, the Boar Wars? Please do not think I am being insulting,far from it. Just thinking.Would love a reply,it is an amazeing tome and I agree with your comments on alchemy,etc. Cheers

  8. sundaemon September 27, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    The MM was a Satanic document along the lines of the Protocols of Zion. A handbook for getting rid of the competition. By that, I mean, eradicating all knowledge of the way the world really works – astrology, alchemy, the true functioning of prayer, these things. A really small group who somehow managed to take over the world through deception, shame, presumed consent and blackmail. You really have to stand back and whistle. How did they ever get away with it? How do they now?

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