Overview:

A historical review of the 12 targets of Roman Catholic violence suggests Catholicism cannot now claim a 'pro-life' stance.

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Given its nearly 2000-year history of violence, can the Roman Catholic Church now presume to lecture anyone about a pro-life stance?

Here is a shorthand historical list of twelve targets of Roman Catholic pro-death violence:

1. Pagans: a pejorative name given by Catholics to devout followers of pre-Christian Mediterranean religions, religions that were outlawed on penalty of death as Christianity became the religion of Empire.

2. Heretics: devout Christians with dissimilar dogma who were therefore hounded, menaced, tortured, and executed.

3. Apostates: those who through conscience or persuasion left the Catholic faith for another religion and were therefore hounded, menaced, tortured, and executed.

4. Heathen: a pejorative name given by Catholics to non-Christians, who were therefore hounded, menaced, tortured, and executed.

5. Infidels: a pejorative name given by Catholics to non-Christians, who were therefore hounded, menaced, tortured, and executed.

6. Jews: the originators of the Abraham religions, whom Catholics nonetheless hounded, menaced, forced into conversion, lied about, ghettoized, exiled, tortured, and executed.

7. Muslims: another offspring of Abrahamic religiosity but pursued and killed in the thousands by Catholic armies in seven different Crusades from the 11th century to the end of the 13th.

8. Witches: mostly women, executed by Catholics in the tens and tens of thousands during the European witch-craze and satanic panics of the 1400s, 1500s, and 1600s. To make matters worse, there was no such thing as a ‘witch.’

9. Unbelievers/atheists: those unconvinced by the evidence for God and therefore hounded, menaced, tortured, and executed.

10. Savages: a pejorative name given by Catholics to aboriginal peoples all over the globe, who had their own ancient religious traditions and were therefore hounded, menaced, enslaved, tortured, and executed by Catholics.

11. Protestant Christians: hounded, menaced, tortured, and executed by the thousands in the denominational religious wars of 1600s Europe.

12. Children: thousands sexually abused by Catholic clergy, while the parents of these children found no solace in a Catholic hierarchy that covered up the clerical crimes.

All these victims of Catholic pro-death policies failed to feel the touch of human decency in the pitiless piety of holy madmen. The victims—whose tongues were severed, whose heads were dashed, whose limbs were burned by wax and fire, who ached upon strappado and rack, who suffered libels and lies, who were raped in pre-pubescence—received no pity.

Again, we must ask: Can the Roman Catholic Church credibly presume to lecture anyone about a pro-life stance? No. The Church’s official statement on life should be this: “Inasmuch as the Church has a long history of trafficking in death, the Church shall demure on questions regarding the value of life. The Church is not qualified on this topic because the Church is not practiced in such an arena, and because the Church judges itself by its own fruit.”

J. H. McKenna (Ph.D.) has taught the history of religion since 1999 at the University of California, where he has won teaching awards. He has published in academic journals and the LA Times, Huffington...