DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     September 9, 1998     vol. 9, no. 176

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- An international symposium on the Inquisition will be held at the Vatican on October 29- 31. The event is one of the many being scheduled in preparation for the Jubilee.

          Last year a historical-theological commission set up by the Vatican, under the leadership of Father Georges Cottier, OP, the official theological of the pontifical household, organized a symposium on the Christian roots of anti-Judaism. Like the upcoming meeting on the Inquisition, that symposium was a response to the call issued by Pope John Paul II in Tertio Millennio Adveniente, for a critical examination of Church history in preparation for the millennium.

          This year's symposium will bring together scholars from around the world, representing different areas of expertise, to examine the Inquisition. The symposium is set for the year that marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Jerome Savonarola, another Dominican theologian, who was burned at the stake. The Vatican recently issued a statement noting that Savonarola's teachings had been completely orthodox.

          Some Catholics have even called for the beatification of Savonarola. Still others call for the beatification of the Spanish Dominican and Grand Inquisitor Thomas de Torquemada.

          It was Torquemada who was commissioned in 1483 by Pope Sixtus IV to reorganize church tribunals. At a time when Europe faced a conflict with Islam in Spain, and many Jews were seen as allies of the Muslims, these church tribunals were intended to test the sincerity of those Jews who claimed to have converted to Christianity. Later, after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, the Inquisition continued to examine the sincerity of converts from Islam.

          Many historians today argue that-- contrary to the popular notion-- Torquemada was not a harsh judge or a torturer, but in fact a modest man, rigorous in his own self-discipline, who consistently urged the need for moderation and charity in the Inquisition. In 15 years of work, the Inquisition studied roughly 100,000 cases, and condemned roughly 2,000 people.

          Although today the term "Inquisition" is generally used in reference to the Spanish Inquisition of the 15th century, the Inquisition as a whole was begun by Pope Lucius III in 1184. In a collaborative effort with the Emperor Barbarossa, the Inquisition introduced the use of corporal punishment for heretics who were found guilty of treason. Punishment in most cases meant an obligatory pilgrimage, or whipping, or imprisonment; execution was reserved only for those who had been condemned of heresy, and refused to recant.

          Ecclesiastical judges saw their responsibility as extending beyond theological matters, to include the protection of society at large. And civil rulers often used these courts to pursue their own political goals.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

September 9, 1998       volume 9, no. 176


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