Drawing on an extraordinarily wide base of ecclesiastical documents, Christine Caldwell Ames recounts how Dominican inquisitors and their supporters crafted and promoted explicitly Christian meanings for their inquisitorial persecution. Inquisitors' conviction that the sin of heresy constituted the graver danger to the Christian soul and to the church at large led to the belief that bringing the individual to repentance—even through the harshest means—was indeed a pious way to carry out their pastoral task. However, the resistance and criticism that inquisition generated in medieval communities also prompted Dominicans to consider further how this new marriage of persecution and holiness was compatible with authoritative Christian texts, exemplars, and traditions. Dominican inquisitors persecuted not despite their faith but rather because of it, as they formed a medieval Christianity that permitted—or demanded—persecution.
Righteous Persecution deviates from recent scholarship that has deemphasized religious belief as a motive for inquisition and illuminates a powerful instance of the way Christianity was itself vulnerable in a context of persecution, violence, and intolerance.