The Catholic church has a lot to apologise for, especially the ways it always dealt with dissenters and other faiths, and the crusades and inquisition are probably the most glaring examples of the barbarism this religion allowed itself to sink into despite proselytizing the virtue of selflessly loving your neighbour. Starhawk posted the following article on the On Faith website maintained by the Washington Post/Newsweek, making a reference to the horrific time of the inquisition and on how that past still has repercussions in our our time.
I’ve always thought that the ability to apologize gracefully is a mark of a good leader. We all make mistakes—even popes, and whole religious traditions. An apology is a way to take responsibility, to signal a change, and to assure the world that it won’t happen again.
And if apologies are being given out, Witches would like one. It’s more than time that the Catholic and Protestant Churches both apologized for centuries of persecution of Witches, Pagans and those they deemed ‘heretics’ for believing something different than standard dogma. How about an apology for the Papal Bull of Pope Innocent the Eighth, in 1484, that made Witchcraft an heresy and unleashed the Inquisition against traditional healers, midwives, and any woman unpopular with her neighbors for being too uppity? It’s high past time to apologize for the Malleus Maleficarum, a vicious document written by two Dominican priests in 1486 that created a whole mythology of Satan worship, attributed it mostly to women, and unleashed a wave of accusations, torture, and judicial murder that have haunted us ever since. An apology won’t do much good, now, to those accused, tormented, and destroyed because someone coveted their property or needed a local scapegoat, nor to their children left motherless or fatherless centuries ago. But it might clear some air.
One of the reasons many of us modern-day Wiccans still proudly call ourselves Witches is to consciously identify with the victims of those persecutions. The Witch persecutions are a suppressed history of abuse. Just as suppressed memories of childhood abuse can hamper us in adult life, suppressed cultural histories still constrain our emotions and our imagination in subtle ways. The Witch persecutions left a residue of fear inside women—that if we speak too loudly or too forcefully, become too strong or visible, we will be attacked. They made imagination, intuition, and magic suspect. They set a pattern that judicial torture is sanctified once your enemy has been labeled ‘evil’. And they made nature herself something a dangerous and suspect.
We use the word “Witch” consciously, as a way of reclaiming our power as women and as men. We reclaim the sacredness of our bodies and our sexuality, the healing traditions rooted in an understanding of the natural world, the power of intuition and imagination, the respect for nature and the love for all living things. As long as there’s a word someone can use to shut down thought, we’re not free. Claim the word, shed light on the hidden history, lance the wound, and we can begin to heal.
So yes, it’s time for an apology. The viability of all nature’s life support systems are threatened today by what our civilization has become. What better time for the religions of the book to signal a new respect for the religions of nature?