Monday, January 30, 2006

Auto da Fe OK?

The other day, as St. Blog's "faithful" (read: angry, love-challenged) venom has occasioned a renaissance of the term in popular conversation, I did a Google of auto da fe. And what I found was, unsurprisingly, a mirror of the worst excesses and hypocricies of our own time.

If the above portrait and accounts of the Great Madrid Auto da Fe of 1680 -- at which 72 clandestine Jews were put to trial to ensure that the marriage celebrations of the Spanish King Charles II would be sufficiently Catholic -- is to be believed, Mass was said as the tribunal proceeded. The crucifix was turned to face away from those judged to be unloved of God. The king himself lit the pyre for the burnings.

How wonderfully orthodox!

And here's a definition I can't get over:
Those not acquitted were burnt. The reason why inquisitors burnt their victims was because they are forbidden to “shed blood”; an axiom of the Roman Catholic Church being, “Eccle’sia non novit san’guinem” [sic] (the church is untainted with blood).
So even then, we can see, following the letter of the law was no problem for the Inquisition-types. It's just that whole damn spirit of the thing -- i.e. the letter's raison d'etre -- that's so oppressive and inhibitive to "truly orthodox" (read: angry, love-challenged) teaching.

Then again, who ever said "real Catholics" had to follow the spirit of anything?

The timing for all this comes thanks to a story from today's Telegraph. Apparently, one of Papa Ratzi's trusted hands will be shown taking a curious line on the guardianship as practiced in the days of old:

The Vatican is preparing for fresh controversy over the Inquisition after allowing an official to appear in a television documentary to offer a defence of the "Holy Terror".

The Rev Joseph Di Noia, the Under-secretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, admits in a television series starting tonight that the use of torture and public burnings were "mistakes".

But the American-born cleric argues that these methods of suppressing heresy were explicable in the context of the times, when people believed passionately in heaven and hell....

Interviewed in the documentary, The Secret Files of the Inquisition, Fr Di Noia says: "It was a mistake to torture people.

"However, torture was regarded as a perfectly justified, legitimate way of producing evidence and it was therefore legally justified."

I'm running a stopwatch to see how quickly "authentic" (read: angry, love-challenged) Catholics try and exploit this in an attempt to justify Bush.

Just watch -- it'll happen, even if Fr. Gus (as DiNoia is known) pointedly said "was" and not "is."

The New York-born Dominican undersecretary of the CDF -- widely tipped to rise even further on the Curial ladder in the April reshuffle -- is highly respected by operatives on both sides of the ecclesiastical spectrum. In fact, they gush over him. As we all know, figures who attract that kind of universal enthusiasm are few and far between these days -- not to mention that, as is the case with his boss (the new Prefect, you know him), he's got the Pope's trust and friendship.

Talk about having the wind at your back.

If any of our Brit readers get to watch this documentary -- it's running on the UKTV History channel beginning tonight -- please send your reviews.... I'd be keen to post them.