Does traditional Catholicism basically convince or compel?

When it comes to evangelizing the vast pagan world, is the traditional Catholic approach more about the free decisions of individuals, or more about compelling populations?

In my studies, I've made note of the actions of the Latin Church from approximately the age of the Great Schism (1050) until approximately the age of Enlightenment (1750). It accounts for a large chunk of Catholic history: 700 years.

During this time, the temporal influence of Rome seems to have combined with an ideal of a united & belligerent Christendom to create a militant form of proselytism. Jews were compelled to leave Spain & England unless they converted. Protestants were systematically massacred unless they converted: the Dutch; the Huguenots; the Swiss; the Germans; Merindol. The Aztecs were not dealt with peacefully. Islam was considered an enemy to be beaten back into Arabia, rather than to be dealt with in a pacifistic or passive way.

Going deeper than the outward use of force, there has also been (and seems to be today) a mindset that encourages interdict, censure, and excommunication of heretics & schismatics, rather than convincing them. Hellfire. This seems to be a way of compelling populations, rather than converting individuals. I refer to St. Pius V's invalidation of Elizabeth's right to rule England in 1570, and encouraging her people to rise up against her; to Jan Hus; to Martin Luther, et. al., and the way in which we dealt with them.

Has the Catholic idea of how to deal with "the world" - and those who disagree with us - been like this? Did it substantially change in Vatican II? I've met people who refuse to become Catholic because they see the Church as an essentially tyrannical institution, thanks to some apparently bad political decisions in our history. They think these weren't just isolated events, but part of a broader mindset that says "compel rather than convince".

I am not at all trying to be controversial. Also, these are neutral questions. I am trying to understand what our idea of Evangelization has been, and what it is today. Ethical questions. Any thoughts?

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Does traditional Catholicism basically convince or compel? - by Heorot - 04-06-2015, 01:11 PM

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