God’s Jury: The Inqui­si­tion and the Mak­ing of the Mod­ern World

Cullen Mur­phy
  • Review
By – April 30, 2012

The author of Are We Rome? and an edi­tor at Van­i­ty Fair, Mur­phy offers an infor­ma­tive and engag­ing his­to­ry of the Catholic Church’s famous office of the Inqui­si­tion. The office was estab­lished in 1231 to inves­ti­gate and elim­i­nate var­i­ous forms of Chris­t­ian heresy – Cathars at first, but it even­tu­al­ly includ­ed Protes­tants; Jews too! Why Jews? Jews who con­vert­ed to Chris­tian­i­ty, espe­cial­ly as a result of the pri­ma­ry moti­va­tor, duress, were often regard­ed with sus­pi­cion to still secret­ly prac­tice Judaism – which would be heresy. Expelling all Jews from Spain, for exam­ple, was ratio­nal­ized in part as a way to pro­tect the Holy Catholic Faith” from judaiz­ing and wicked Chris­tians” with­in its ranks. Iron­i­cal­ly, Jews were forced to con­vert or leave, and those who con­vert­ed could stay, being now regard­ed as Chris­tians. Thus the poli­cies devel­oped to con­trol those with­in the Church, when the Church runs the State, lead nat­u­ral­ly to the Church con­trol­ling the des­tiny of those who are not by def­i­n­i­tion with­in its mem­ber­ship.

The office has been rein­vent­ed many times over the cen­turies, and today is known as the Con­gre­ga­tion for the Doc­trine of the Faith, over which Pope Bene­dict XVI, when Car­di­nal Josef Ratzinger, presided as pre­fect. Now that parts of the enor­mous archives have begun to be opened to inves­ti­ga­tion by out­siders” in recent years, Mur­phy exam­ines these records toward a spe­cif­ic nar­ra­tive. Focus­ing on the themes of sur­veil­lance, cen­sor­ship, and sci­en­tif­ic” inter­ro­ga­tion devel­oped through the cen­turies by this office, Mur­phy crit­i­cal­ly reveals the ideas and mech­a­nisms of the Catholic Church in its war on error.” But that is far from the only vic­tim of Mur­phy’s cru­sade: his sights are set also sim­i­lar­ly reveal­ing dynam­ics at work in mod­ern gov­ern­ments, not least in the poli­cies and con­duct of the Unit­ed States and its allies in their war on ter­ror.” Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index.

Mark D. Nanos, Ph.D., Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas, is the author of Mys­tery­of Romans, win­ner of the 1996 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, Charles H. Revson­Award in Jew­ish-Chris­t­ian Relations.

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