DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     October 30 - November 1, 1998     vol. 9, no. 213

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the president of the committee preparing for the Jubilee Year 2000, today opened a symposium on the Inquisition by observing that the term itself-- the Inquisition-- refers to one ecclesial reality, although many different tribunals were involved, at different times and in different countries.

          Some historians speak of "Inquisitions" in the plural, Cardinal Etchegaray, in order to help categorize the different historical events. But he said that such a system of classification could be misleading, since the Church did not delegate power to different national governments; the Inquisition was a single entity, he said, with under ecclesial authority. Underlining the point, he refused to use "apologetic" argument that Spanish Inquisition, for example, was a creature of that country's government, under lay rather than ecclesial control.

          To be sure, the French-born prelate continued, the Inquisition took different forms and followed different practiced in the course of its long history, which stretched from the 13th to the 17th centuries. He argued that the phenomenon should be studied with all its variations, in different times and places. For his own purposes he saw two different periods: one covering the Middle Ages, and the other the modern era-- especially in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Latin America.

          The cardinal's address was the first of a three-day conference in Rome, at which historians are discussing the history and organization of the Inquisition. The conference is a response to the challenge issued by Pope John Paul II for an "examination of conscience" by the Church in preparation for the coming millennium.

          The history of the Inquisition, Cardinal Etchegaray suggested, is replete with errors, inconsistencies, and offenses against charity. He welcomed the historians who will reflect on the history of the institution, saying that the Church asked nothing of them but to examine the Inquisition carefully, rigorously, and freely. "The Church does not fear passing under the judgment of historians," he said.

          Father Georges Cottier, OP, the theologian for the papal household, delivered the next major address at the conference. He explained the Pope's call for an "examination of conscience" as a matter of seeking "purification of memory."

          Recognizing that the Pope's call "surprised more than a few people," the theologian pointed out that Christians must keep in mind "the certainly of God's pardon." Requests for pardon are appropriate, he continued-- citing the Pope's words-- whenever the faithful of the Church acted in ways that are inconsistent with the Gospel, in effect giving scandal rather than evangelical witness.

          Specifically, in the case of the Inquisition, Father Cottier pointed to the "methods of intolerance and even of violence in the service of the truth" as offenses as Christian charity.

          In examining the past, Father Cottier added, the faithful should not fail to notice the implications for the future and for the present. In this examination of conscience, he said, Christians "must put ourselves humbly in the presence of the Lord to ask about our responsibilities, too, for the evils of our own time." He added: "The judgment of the past cannot be disassociated from the examination of conscience about the present."

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
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October 30-Nov 1, 1998       volume 9, no. 213


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