In the United States, during the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth, kidnapping, a crime comparatively rare and motivated by greed rather than violence, was punishable by a term in prison, whose length gradually increased, as the offense became more frequent, until it averaged from 10 to 25 years. If anyone had suggested the death penalty, say in 1900, the conscience of the average citizen would have rejected the idea as unjustly severe. Then there occurred some kidnappings ending, by design or accident, in murder; and when the body of the Lindbergh baby, stolen from his crib, was found, public opinion almost universally accepted the view that the menace to childhood, to the home, to society was so grave as to justify the death penalty for such an offense. In several states, laws there passed inflicting capital punishment for kidnapping alone, even if no death resulted. Against this new rigor of the law there has been no protest of importance from public opinion in the States.

Something very similar happened when the Manichees began migrating to various parts of Europe, taking with them, not an intellectual protest against the tenets of the Church, not a mere refusal to believe or to practice (there were always unbelievers in Europe, and people who did not go to Mass, yet no coercion was applied to them), but something quite positive and quite sinister, which was felt to be a virus injected into the bloodstream of human society…

It was easier to get evidence (and there is a great deal of it) that their fanatical logic translated the dogma that life was evil into the most shocking kind of action, a veritable ritual of suicide and murder. They would ask a sick man, or any other candidate for death, whether  he wished to be a “martyr” or a “confessor”. If a martyr, he was smothered with a pillow. If a confessors, he was starved to death. Even babies were thus barbarously murdered. Such was the result of a doctrine which regarded a pregnant woman as possessed by a devil, and, if she died in childbirth, certain to go to Hell. The endura, in fact, cost more lives than the Inquisition ever did.

William Thomas Walsh, Characters of the Inquisition (1940)


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