August 26, 2007

The Inquisition--Take 2

Recently, I watched an episode of The Secret Files of the Inquisition. I was struck by the parallels going on in the US today.
During the 16th century, sixty years after Martin Luther nailed his concerns to the door of a church, a majority of the people of Europe were moving away from the Catholic faith and toward Protestantism. Faced with a loss of souls, a loss of revenue and a loss of territory, the Roman Inquisition began. The goal? The suppression of religious freedom and the rejoining, as had been the case for centuries, of Church and State with the Church in the lead position.

The acceptable view was that the earth was the center of the universe, Rome was the center of the earth and the Pope was the leader, appointed by God, of Rome.
Studying medicine was heresy because to dissect the body was to question God’s creation.
Worshiping in one’s own language was heresy because to do so encouraged the asking of theological questions which was tantamount to questioning God.

Rome turned its eyes toward the universities because they were places where free thought was encouraged.
A student at the University of Padua had converted to the Lutheran view. His name was Antonio Algerio. After his trial and imprisonment, in 1455, a monk was sent to urge him to recant his views. If he recanted, he would be strangled before his body was burned. He refused. A new form of execution had been devised and Antonio was the first to experience it: he was boiled alive in a cauldron of oil, tar and turpentine. He survived for fifteen minutes.

At about this same time, the Church cast its eyes toward the Jews.
For over 1000 years, twenty-three Popes had tolerated and protected the Jews. They were respected for their skills and were recognized as boons to local economies.

Pope Paul IV wrote a bull that overturned all that. For the next 300 years the Jews were placed in ghettos. They were locked in every night and suffered more and more repression. They were not allowed to own any book except the Torah [the Christians' Old Testament]. All other Hebrew books were burned. Finally the logical conclusion began being carried out: the choice to either convert or face torture and execution. Often, even after conversion, either true or false, the individual was executed simply because he or she was of Jewish ancestry.

In 1559, Pope Paul IV died. Immediately after his death, the people of Rome erupted into the streets, freed the prisoners of the Inquisition of Rome and toppled the statue of Paul IV to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea where it remained for almost 500 years.

His legacy, however, lived on. Books continued to be banned and torture and executions continued. Most of the presses in Venice were closed. Finally, the entire city of Venice was excommunicated. The list of banned books remained in effect thus suppressing furtherance of knowledge.
Oh, and something that came as a shock to me: the Inquisition lasted until late in the 19th century -- in fact the final bit [the forbidden reading list] was finally repealed in 1966 by Pope Paul VI.

And, within the last decade, in 1998-- Pope John Paul II apologized for the Inquisition and the harm it caused. Though I disagreed with much he did, when I heard about that my respect for the man rose about 2000 percent. That action took courage.
Today, however, the parallels with the Inquisition period of history are stunning. People in power are leading us into another Inquisition. They torture and kill those who disagree with their views. They do so for many of the same reasons Pope Paul IV created his reign of terror.

In the 16th century, there were some mitigating circumstances. The Renaissance was just beginning. The majority of people still lived lives filled with superstitions left over from medieval times. Some people were still emerging from feudal times when they had been told what to do and what they were allowed to believe by their earthly lords as well as by the Church.

Only the educated few understood that the earth was not flat and stable and that the sun did not move around the earth. Everyone believed that God created every animal in its final form. The sciences we know today did not exist. And they did not have previous Inquisitions to serve as warnings as to what the authorities, when granted total power over the populace, are capable of doing to the people.

We do not have those excuses for what we are allowing to happen to us.


PoliShifter said...

There's the obvious inquisitin when it comes to "radical Islam" and terrorists and then there's the inquisition that is going on constantly in politis in the press ridiculing those who oppose Bush and the occupation of Iraq.

By the grace of God, Americans haven't been rounded up and put into camps, tortured en mass, but I fear those days are ahead.

Mary Ellen said...

Great post, two crows! It's funny because I was just discussing some of this with a blogger on the Mother Theresa post that I did. I did mention Pope John Paul II's apology for this and all the sins of the past and presence within the Catholic Church. You're correct, it was a brave thing to do and he was advised by some not to do it. I'm glad that he stuck by his guns on that one.

There are an element of Catholics who remind me very much of those who committed those atrocities during the Inquisition. Believe it or not..ok, maybe it's not too hard to believe...I was actually kicked off a Catholic blog and called a heretic for daring to "question the authority of the church" regarding stem cell research. They were very anti science and said that we had to follow the church no matter what. I guess no one is allowed to think for themselves. They got pissed when I asked how many of them adopted "snow babies", you know, the frozen embryos that they didn't want used for stem cell research? When I asked that, I was kicked off and all my comments were erased. I was polite, I really was! But in their closed little minds, people like me should be excommunicated from the church. I was half waiting to hear the Vatican Guard to come pounding on my door! I did a post about the whole thing a while back...

Someday I'm going to write a post about the rigid right of the Catholic Church.

an average patriot said...

two crows
i just sent you something that should make the whys and why nots of what is happening today in religion is happening and why it is a no go. time only moves one way. forward!

sumo said...

Ferdinand and Isabella did their special turn of the rack for the Inquisition with Mr. Torquemada at the helm too. And yes, the Jews took it in the shorts with her too...same scenario. Isabella being staunchly blind along with the Catholic church higher ups...taught her daughter Catherine of Aragon well. Who in turn taught it to her daughter Mary (Bloody Mary) who then tried to re-establish the religion again into England after Daddy Henry VIII had dissolved Catholicism and made himself the Head of the Church of England...the Protestant religion was alive and well in England at last by the reign of Elizabeth One. Oh the things history has to teach us if we'd only just look into it. Well...we's the leaders that need to do the major looking and not repeating it! I enjoyed your lesson about Rome...very interesting.

two crows said...

hey Poli--
I've seen on youtube compounds that look like concentration camps.
don't know if that's just the paranoid conspiracy buffs prating or if it's true. what's scary, to me, at the moment is that I see something as sensationalist as that piece and wonder 'what if?' rather than dismissing it out-of-hand.

two crows said...

hey m e--
actually, I thought long and hard about this one-- for fear of offending you---knowing you're Catholic, and all.
but, I figured I had a good enough sense of you to know that you wouldn't be offended by history.

and, some friends of mine when I was 8 or so told me about the banned books list. I was amazed, even then. I didn't know, then, that it was part of a wider inquisition.

it blew me away to discover it existed till well into the 19th century and that Napoleon freed Jews from ghettos and 'heretics' from prisons as he marched across Europe.

it's astounding that you were actually thrown off a modern blog for disagreeing with the Catholic dogma about stem cell research!
it just amazes me how frightened some folks are of thinking for themselves and of science.

just goes to show: fundamentalism of any stripe is SO dividing!

two crows said...

thanks AAP --
now, if I've told you once I've told you 1000 times [ok, 3 times :) ] STAY OFF THAT HAND!

I'm running out today to buy adapters to allow me to network the laptop with the desktop. at least that way I won't have to struggle with the desktop hardware while learning Vista.
I'll read your email when I get home. Thanx for it.

two crows said...

hey, sumo--
it's strange [and maybe another parallel with today] how the renaissance ushered in some of the worst violence europe had ever seen.
shows what happens when the status quo is getting shaken up.

that's happening in this country and Europe again today -- which could account for the wave of fundamentalist thinking that's trying to get us to do an about-face and march back to the 1950's.

and, AAP has it right--
while, in theory, the quantum physicists may be onto something, to the rest of us, time only flows one way.
so, get OVER it, fundies!!!

TomCat said...

TC, shhhh!! ;-)

You know Bush flunked history. Do you want him getting wind of this and pronouncing it here?

two crows said...

hey, tc--
somehow, I'm not worried about Bush reading my blog--