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?
The problem with the Jews in Spain is no so much Christian evangelism but that they enjoyed such favor under the Muslims, that the Christians in Spain could not bring themselves to trust them (ironically enough in light of the last century of history).  It was compounded by events in the East, where Jews helped the (pagan) Persians in the sack of Jerusalem and Heraclius wrote to the Kings of the West recommending compulsory baptism, etc.
With Heretics, and particularly the Inquisition, the idea was initially very lenient.  This changed after the Albigensian heresy where the idea was to root these out before they caused massive disruption in peace later by allowing to metastasize into bigger problems. 
Heorot, the cases you cite are certainly true, but you're forgetting the enormous number of individual missionaries that ended up in foreign lands, particularly the far east, setting up tiny Catholic communities.
In order for people to be truly free to make decisions, the atmosphere in which they live should be as conducive to truth as possible.  The objective of the Church is the sanctification of souls so that they may attain salvation.  So if the Church ever compelled populations, she did so with this intention in mind.  If there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church, and if error has no rights, then how could one ever look at the action of "compelling" pagans/heretics/etc. to become Catholics as anything but good?  In particular, during the Protestant Revolt, the Church, above everything else, had to ensure that the faithful were not exposed to heresy that could jeopardize their salvation.  To do this, the human element of the Church employed tactics that were extreme.  In how many of these cases can the Church be considered an unjust aggressor?  In how many can she be considered as protecting her flock from wolves?
This is pure propaganda. The protestants were as brutal as Catholics (if not more) in their suppression of Catholics. The Dutch were very liberal with Jews and whatnot but would make war with Catholics.
As an anecdotal point, here in Brazil the Dutch briefly invaded us and suppressed Catholicism. But the priests (mainly Jesuits at the time) were so darn good that people were converting from Protestantism en masse. Its said that if the Dutch were not to be expelled from the land they would all convert. (btw, the whole Jesuit evangelization thing completely destroys the myth that pagans were just ignored or forced to convert; this is simply false).

Regarding heretics, the inquisition at its best would debate the heretic until the very end. It would invite the heretic to change the inquisitor's mind and a quaestiones disputatae would ensue. If the heretic were to be obstinate in his heresy (a condition for formal heresy) the inquisition would deliver the person to the state (btw, the inquisition was put in place to curb the state's and the population's punishments). By the way, what did the Church do to Luther? The theological points of Protestantism were answered much earlier. From the very beginning Protestantism was merely a political tool used by the early nation states seeking to divorce themselves from Church authority (also, the Church teaches, and we commemorate this at Christ the King festivity, that a society is only just when it seeks to protect and promote the true religion).

Finally, regarding Islam, you will see that both Islam as enemy and Islam as friend have existed in the Church. But yes, when they invade your land, kidnap folks from coastal cities near Africa to sell as slaves, and bully pilgrims, than yes, they should be seen as enemies. Both evangelization and military actions were used by the Church (this is like St. Francis vs. St. Dominic).

The main problem I perceive with enthusiasts for religious freedom is that they think religion as a purely private matter with no social consequences, and this is clearly wrong. Every heresy is also a social calamity (vide what the innocent Prots did in the revolt of Münster), and a properly just state (without being confounded with the Church) should not promote error.

Where religion and civil life were so enmeshed, there was often overlap of motives and actions.  Heresy was often indistinguishable from treason against the state in its effects and was treated the same way by the state as early as the Justinian code. 

See for example this explanation of the "persecution" of Albigensians by Archbishop John Hughes, from a 19th century debate as to whether the idea of religious liberty was compatible with Catholicism (a Presbyterian minister argued Catholics were a threat in America because they used persecuted non-Catholics):

Despite activity in the Church to the contrary, the Church consistently taught that such compulsion was forbidden. Some examples from the time period you describe:

Gregroy X, in the late 1200s forbade Christians from harassing Jews and condemned forced conversion:

In the early 1400s Joannes Falkenberg's works claiming that non-Christians could be persecuted based on the fact that they were non-Christians was condemned at Constance and he was imprisoned by Pope Martin V.

In the mid 1500s, Pope Paul III condemned taking away the liberty of pagans in the New World, and instead said they should be converted by preaching and the example of a holy life, excommunicating those who did otherwise.

It should be noted, the Church can coerce the baptized with both spiritual and temporal means--free consent to baptism implies consent to be subject to the Church's jurisdiction in this regard.  This was defined at the Council of Trent and is contained in the current Code of Canon Law in canons 1311 and 1312.
Everyone has already touched on the significant difference between Christendom and current affairs, namely, the relationship between faith and the stability of the social order. The two were intertwined such that a threat to faith was a threat to society and vice versa. Ideally faith and society work and grow together as an organic whole; faith is not a compartment on equal footing with other factors as it is today in a pluralistic, globalized world.

There is certainly an interesting intellectual difficulty in reconciling the free embracing of faith and external compulsion to convert, but I doubt that this was as much of an issue as most try to make it out to be. To add to some of the evidence that the Church was pretty guarded in the use of force against non-Catholics (in this case, witches and pagans), see the the Council of Paderborn (785), which condemned self-appointed witch hunters (; Pope Nicholas I (866) prohibited the use of torture on witches; Gregory VII (1080) forbade the killing of witches on the presumption that they caused bad weather and poor crops.

You see simultaneously in the Church the development of a rich theology of evangelization. During the devotio moderna, principally with Thomas a Kempis's Imitation of Christ, he states famously, "I would rather experience contrition than know how to define it." St. John of the Cross says that the effectiveness of the preacher is proportional to his own spiritual state; every other appearance of success is either extraordinary by the mercy of God or illusory. St. Bernard of Clarivaux in his sermons on the Canticle of Canticles stated that we influence others to conversion insofar as we become overflowing fountains of grace rather than channels; i.e. we must be filled to the brim with God's grace ourselves before we can effectively help others. St. Thomas in 2a2ae of the Summa states what became one of the mottos of the Dominicans: to contemplate God and *then* to share the fruits of contemplation (here alone is a beautiful theology of the interrelation of the active and mystical lives; Garrigou-Lagrange and Osende in the 20th century summarize it very well as well as Chautard's Soul of the Apostolate). Fr. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J., in the Practice of Christian Perfection (16th century), states the same: we positively affect others for conversion to the proportion that we have been converted ourselves. I can go on and on further with examples from Saints and Doctors, but you get the point...

I personally think the theology of apostolate contained in, say, Apostolicam Actuositatem, Lumen Gentium, and Presbyterorum Ordinis are quite traditional in their theological core but have some problematic, ambiguous expressions that allowed for what JPII called the "laicization of the clergy and the clericalization of the laity"; this was entwined with the difficulty of the meaning of participatio actuosa, translated poorly into English in Sacrosanctum Concilium as full, active, and conscious participation in the liturgy. You'll notice, for example, in Apostolicam Act. that the laity are called to the transforming union so as to be the most effective at apostolate work, which at this point in history is not yet fully distinguished from evangelical work. The document doesn't explicitly say "transforming union" but it describes the spiritual state of only one who is at least well into the illuminative way.

The theology of the laity as careful developed by some theologians, such as Fr. Antonio Royo Marin, O.P., and Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P., are very particular in delineating the proper roles and places of the clergy and laity in apostolic and evangelical work, and the two priests I mentioned root this theology pretty solidly in Thomas Aquinas and John of the Cross. The SSPX speaks favorably of Fr. Royo Marin, some of whose works were standard theology textbooks in in the '50s and early '60s before the spirit of Vatican II took over.

My answer may seem all over the place because you are asking two conceptually different questions that are historically intertwined, so it's hard to give something succinct. I hope this makes sense. God bless!
Please don't confuse Western European behavior with Catholicism as the two are not synonymous. Take the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as an example, which was renowned for its tolerance towards Jews and non-Catholics in general despite being a thoroughly Catholic Republic with an elected monarch.

Some things worth looking up:

- Paulus Vladimiri and the rights of Pagans against the Teutonic order
- Statutes of Kalisz
- Warsaw Confederation of 1573

[Image: pol-union-lublin.JPG]

Immigration of Jews:
[Image: immigration-of-the-jews.jpg]
(04-08-2015, 01:36 AM)mortify Wrote: Please don't confuse Western European behavior with Catholicism as the two are not synonymous. Take the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as an example, which was renowned for its tolerance towards Jews and non-Catholics in general despite being a thoroughly Catholic Republic with an elected monarch.

Some things worth looking up:

- Paulus Vladimiri and the rights of Pagans against the Teutonic order
- Statutes of Kalisz
- Warsaw Confederation of 1573

As I understand it, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church came about in the Union of Brest of 1595 because many of those Orthodox in Ukraine subject to Constantinople chose to escape Polish persecution by accepting the union, rather than maintain what was to them and their fathers the true faith.

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