John Lilburne's journal about torture, the inquisition and Hugh MacKay on lessons for today.



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1447 L Sun 10 Mar 2002

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

2298 In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

I have been reading a book about such cruel practices: The Inquisition (Viking, 1999), by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. It gives an unflattering account of the Roman Catholic Church. Some of the chapters are:

4. The Spanish Inquisition

6. A Crusade Against Witchcraft

7. Fighting the Heresy of Protestantism

8. Fear of the Mystics

9. Freemasonry and the Inquistion

12. The Holy Office

14. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

16. The Pope as the Problem

There were news reports that the Dominicans are having a conference on their order's role in the Inquisition. I expect they would disagree with parts in this book, as I do. However the fact remains that horrible things were done by popes, bishops, priests and religious.

Yesterday in The Age newspaper there was an article by Hugh MacKay "an author and social researcher":

Religion can lift us to a higher plane

Religion has been getting a bad rap these past few weeks. In some people's minds, an almost automatic link has been forged between the clergy and sexual impropriety. ...

I disagree with his arguments about separating religion from morality. But the psychological information he reports I found helpful:

In a review of research into the nature and effects of religious (especially Christian) belief recently published by the British Psychological Society, Professor Michael Argyle notes that churchgoers enjoy longer life-expectancy than non-churchgoers, have healthier life-styles (less drinking, smoking, and promiscuity), strong social support from church groups ...

He lists other benefits, but I think an important point is then made:

But it's not all sweetness and light: research suggests many churchgoers suffer from a kind of "cognitive bondage" -- a closed mind and a tendency to reject those whose views are different from theirs.

I think this is a danger and that studying things like the inquisition can help with it.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 10 March 2002.


Links to other sites: report "Dominicans examine role in Inquisition"