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The Modern Scholar: Heaven or Heresy: A History of the Inquisition

Narrated by: Thomas F. Madden
Length: 8 hrs and 30 mins
Categories: History, European
3.7 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

Non-member price: $34.76

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Publisher's Summary

For many, the Inquisition conjures Gothic images of cloaked figures and barbarous torture chambers. So enmeshed is this view of the Inquisition in popular culture that such scenes play out even in comedies such as Mel Brooks' History of the World and Monty Python's Flying Circus. But is this a fair portrayal? And how was the Inquisition perceived in its own time? Professor Thomas F. Madden of Saint Louis University delivers a stimulating series of lectures exploring all facets of the Inquisition, including the religious and political climate of its time and the Inquisition's relationship to heresy and reformation. With a scholarly eye and infectious enthusiasm, widely published author and noted expert on pre-modern European history Thomas Madden imparts an understanding of the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions while dispelling popular myths associated with the subject.
©2007 Thomas F. Madden (P)2007 Recorded Books

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  • Trevor
  • 13-12-2011

Some of the best info on the Inquistion out there

While classroom lectures are not as well-read as some of the Times Bestseller fiction novels, the teacher doesn't do a bad job and gives great info on the Inquisition.

Most importantly, one is able to try to understand WHY a sane person would support such a practice. From this vantage point of history, the Inquisitors seem out of their skulls, but I appreciated the professor's lectures precisely because the picture that came through was of rational men taking their beliefs to a logical end. It was enlightening to try to get into their shoes.

The lectures kept me interested. I suspect Dr. Madden is a strong Catholic, but every author and every teacher is biased.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Adam
  • 14-01-2012

Very informative

This covers a lot of history, starting with the Roman origins of inquisitions. The lecturer is very well informed though he does seem to go out of his way to defend the church every few minutes. Even so, he presents the history most have never really looked into in a way that's easy to follow and retain.

10 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Chi-Hung
  • 09-01-2009

A decent course

I like Madden's courses, and this one did not disappoint, however, the history of Inquisition stopped being interesting after the Reformation, although the course touched on the modern misconception of the Inquisition, the course could have been more interesting if it focuses more on the heretical theology.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Nathan Geffen
  • 07-02-2019

Making excuses for the inquisition

The delivery is often stilted. The course structure can also be improved. For example, it could do with an introductory lecture that presents the course plan and summarises the major facts of the inquisition. But these are minor quibbles compared to the course's serious shortcoming: Prof Madden's attempt to understate the horrors of the inquisition in what is a thinly veiled defence of the Catholic Church. Pointing out that Protestants and Anglicans killed more people does not excuse the inquisition. Nor the fact that the Roman and Spanish inquisitions were fairer and more forgiving than locally run inquisitions. Madden criticises exaggerated estimates of the inquisition's victims. He points out that only thousands were executed over several hundred years. But many more were tortured (Madden has a few passing words for the methods used) or imprisoned, and excluded from society through ex-communication. Madden has far too little to say about this. His lectures are devoid of stories of the suffering of ordinary people at the hands of the inquisition. He completely ignores Giordano Bruno's roasting. But it is his lecture on Galileo that is particularly misleading. Yes, there were holes in Galileo's advocacy of heliocentrism, and his theory of tides was wrong. And no doubt his mocking words riled the bigwigs in Rome. But the extent to which he was right on the science (and he was far closer to the truth than his inquisitors) is beside the point. His trial was an affront to free thought. Madden makes light of Galileo's fate, that he was threatened with torture and confined to house arrest for life. Madden denies the existence of the Marranos --- converted Jews who secretly practised Judaism. I am not knowledgeable enough about the inquisition to dispute Madden's position. But their existence is undoubtedly a mainstream view. (Brittanica's entry on the inquisition asserts their existence, for example, as did my high school syllabus.) In a course like this it's fine for the lecturer to assert his own view on disputed evidence, but he should at least fairly present the view of his fellow academics who disagree with him, and explain in more depth why he believes them wrong. I am not under the illusion that the Catholic Church invented intolerance, or was worse than all others. But the inquisition was horrific and there is much to be learnt from it. Indeed, there are disquieting secular versions of ex-communication happening in 2019, in which planet-wide public shaming takes place on social media. But the lessons to be learnt are occluded by Madden's agenda. Madden often points out that the inquisition was popular, apparently to excuse it. But it is the popularity of intolerant policies that often render them sinister and awful. Despite this, there is much interesting content. With fewer excuses for the inexcusable and more thought on structure, the series could be revised and become a valuable guide.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Steven
  • 11-05-2016

Why Torture and Murder is Okay

Any additional comments?

The lecturer tries to appear neutral, but especially toward the end, he becomes a hardcore apologist for the Catholic church. The purpose of the whole lecture is just to defend the torture and murder of the Inquisition and downplay anything negative. The lecturer seems to think it was okay to torture and kill those "stubborn and rebellious" people who refused to believe in Catholicism. Truly sick. This shouldn't be called "Modern Scholar." It should be called "Modern Catholic Apologist."

6 people found this helpful

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  • Jose
  • 31-01-2016

"The Inquisition Was Good"

What disappointed you about The Modern Scholar: Heaven or Heresy: A History of the Inquisition?

This is a deeply troubling lecture series. Delivered at a reputable college (St. Louis University), the author insists that the Inquisition had its heart in the right place and only meant to spread the word of God through Europe. He implies that the widespread torture and murder of Jews and other minorities was simply a overzealous extension of a perfectly reasonable idea.

Madden glosses over the atrocity that was the Inquisition in favor of a Catholic-friendly "explanation" of why things happened.

There are some interesting historical details here -- and it's fascinating to hear the story from the villain's POV -- but it's jaw-dropping that this is how generations of Catholic students are taught the darkest period in their faith's history.

4 people found this helpful

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  • papaworx
  • 01-11-2009

Bad news and good

This lecture, to me, was a big disappointment. Prof. Madden's implied, but not well disguised assertion is that the Catholic Church is inherently right and has no other objectives than to safeguard the spiritual welfare of its believers. Heresy, then, is inherently evil since it could possibly derail the flock from the path of righteousness. Consequently, inquistion is the only logical solution to protect the true and only faith. The heretics are lucky to be protected by the compassion of Canon law. After all, only a few thousand Jews and conversos were executed in Spain. Unfortunately, few historic sources were quoted for these assertions.
But not all is lost. The halting delivery and meagre prose will convince few listeners other than adherents of Opus Dei.

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  • john
  • 27-11-2012

willfully naive apologia

incredibly, likely willfully naive - the professor thinks that 'heretics' were 'persuaded' of their errors and recanted having realized this. his basic assertion is that unlike the state, the church only sought to correct. he has never heard of Power, as in requiring loyalty oaths to maintain power. church and state were two mutually sustaining parts.

above is based on listening to the audio up to the inquisition - i had to give it up. hoping audible will refund my $.

7 people found this helpful

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  • X-ray Chick 351
  • 20-12-2011

an opinion piece

A very interesting set of lectures. I had enjoyed his set on Venice and would recommend it. I was concerned by how partial he was. He appears to be an apologist for the inquistion. I am sure he is correct that the inquisition was a varied set of processes and he did a good job describing the subtleties of it in a historical context but he seemed not to be able to accept that the catholic church was run by earthly men who might also have had political motives for tourturing heretics and sending many to their deaths for expressing contray views. He seems to say that Galilao had it coming for being wrong, which is a little unfair i feel. He does not give Protestant Christians much of the same slack. For example Mary I of England and Elizabeth I had roughly the same number of people killed for religious reasons (Elizabeth over a longer period of time) but he implies that Elizabeth had much more killed. He also says that witch trials and executions with coerced testimony was a protestant procedure when in fact it happened in both Protestant and Catholic areas and the standard of evidence was variable in both juristdictions. He suggests that the inquisition would not accept falseified testimony but the Basque trials would be an example were this many false confessions were clearly obtained. Definately worth a listen but possibly not as balenced as it could be.

3 people found this helpful