A clear objective look at ... the Inquisition
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Sun, 1 Nov 98 13:08:48 -0800
Subject: A clear objective look at ... the Inquisition
[No joke. -psl]
Forwarded-by: Dan Peck <email@example.com>
By The Associated Press
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope John Paul II harnessed history to the service of
theology on Saturday, saying the Roman Catholic Church should take a clear,
``objective'' look at the Inquisition before making any grand apology for
one of its darkest institutions.
The pontiff spoke at an audience with historians and other scholars
gathered at the Vatican for an unprecedented symposium on the Inquisition,
a centuries-long campaign against heresy in which thousands -- perhaps even
millions -- were tried, tortured and burned at the stake for their ideas.
The three-day conference ended Saturday. It was closed to the public, but
the Vatican plans to publish some of the proceedings.
Vatican officials say the symposium was a first step in assessing the
Inquisition, an assessment many observers expect to culminate in a public
request for pardon when the church enters its third millennium in 2000.
The pope made it clear that the scholars had not been summoned to make
moral judgments; this, he said, would be outside their ``competence.''
Instead they were being asked to ``offer help in the most precise possible
reconstruction ... in the light of the historical context of the epoch,''
Modern scholars have for several decades been reappraising the Inquisition,
long a symbol of cruelty and intolerance. Some now maintain that the
justice it meted out, although brutal, was neither capricious nor unusual
for the times.
The Vatican recently opened its long-secret archives on the Inquisition,
which could lead to an even broader reassessment.
John Paul said the Vatican cannot let public opinion cloud its judgment as
it takes stock of the Inquisition, which lasted from the 13th to the 19th
``Church teaching certainly cannot set out to perform an act of an ethical
nature, which is what pardon requires, without first being precisely
informed of the situation of those times,'' the pope said. ``But neither
can it rely on images of the past colored by public opinion, since they
are often weighted down with passions that impede serene and objective
Asking forgiveness for the Inquisition would be a tricky business.
In the case of the Holocaust, the Vatican admitted that some of its
``children'' had erred, but not the church itself. But the Inquisition was
an ecclesiastical institution, one authorized by the popes.
© 1998 Peter Langston