The Inquisition gets a far worse rap than it deserves. Most Anti-Catholics bring up quite exaggerated “facts” about the Inquisition and ignore the reality of the times. Most Protestant and “Rationalist” Inquisition propaganda is based on the “Black Libels” or books written by various Protestants at the time in order to raise political and nationalisthic fervor, and supress any chance for Catholics to gain political power in their countries. The books (which have enjoied success over the centuries among Anti-Catholic protestants like Jack Chick, are no longer accepted among most historians of today, and seen as political tools and filled with exaggerations.)
1. The Spanish Inquisition: The Spanish Inquisition was an ecclesiastical tribunal established in 1478 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the medieval inquisition which was under papal control. The new body was under the direct control of the Spanish monarchy. Prior to the establishment of the Inquisition in Spain, there where mobs of people who would round up and kill people who where suspected of practicing Judaism in private.
The Inquisition only had authority over Catholics. This included Catholics who had converted from Judaism and Islam, and not Jews or Muslims who had not converted or their descendants. After the establishment of the Inquisition the accused where tried by a tribunal, most where found not guilty, or where sentenced to such horrible punishments as not being able to wear silk, ride on horseback or other penitential punishments, the State usually imposed a fine. After serving the Penance they attended an Auto de Fe, in which after a procession, Mass, public prayers and sermons, the people who had been penanced made a public renunciation of their lapses of practice. If someone caused a public menace by making repeated and public pronouncements against the State and Church, and had no intention of keeping the peace, they where either sentenced to a harsher sentences, and in rare cases burned at the stake. Even though the Inquisition in Spain was much more tolerant than many Protestant countries against Catholics, even so it was condemned by the Pope for excesses.
2. Protestant Inquisitions: England: Any Catholic priest caught in England was given 24 hours to renounce the catholic faith or die by being hanged, drawn and quartered while still alive, then burned. To see a partial list go to, [url:393p6zp3]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Martyrs[/url:393p6zp3].
In Switzerland as well as some of the minor principalities of Germany and Holland: Accusations of practicing Catholicism sometimes ended up in the courts with a death sentence on conviction, the idea of penance was not common among the Protestant courts. To the great humiliation of the Protestant churches, religious intolerance and even persecution unto death were continued long after the Reformation. In Geneva the pernicious theory was put into practice by state and church, even to the use of torture and the admission of the testimony of children against their parents, and with the sanction of Calvin. Bullinger, in the second Helvetic Confession, announced the principle that heresy could be punished like murder or treason.