A new wave of sex scandals and allegations he personally covered for an abusive cardinal have Pope Francis under fire. But is he in trouble?
n August 2013, Józef Wesołowski, the Vatican‘s ambassador to the Dominican Republic since 2008, abruptly abandoned his island home. He’d been a staple on the waterfront in Santo Domingo, the capital city, where—often dressed like he was out for a jog—he assumed a laid-back and less-than-holy presence. The shoeshiners knew him casually as “the Italian,” because of the way he spoke Spanish with a distinct accent. (He was actually Polish.) He often had beers in the sun at a popular restaurant. He seemed, well, normal.
Like many Dominican monks of his time, Bernard Gui rose through the ranks of the Inquisition. At the age of 35 he was named Grand Inquisitor of Toulouse, a repressive office he held from 1306 to 1323. The church hierarchy rewarded his efforts with a 1314 appointment as the Vicar of Toulouse, and he was sent on several papal missions to Italy and the French court. [Lea, Inq II, 104]
Gui was a four-star general in the war on heresy. He wrote its principal battle plan, a handbook for Inquisitors entitled Practica Inquisitionis Hereticae Pravitatis: a “guide for inquiring into heretical depravity.” A classic interrogatory manual of the medieval Inquisition, it detailed forbidden beliefs, practices and rituals, and set out formulas of abjuration to be repeated by those the Church Militant had tortured into submission. Interrogatory torments administered before the tribunal did not count as punishment, but as the means of extracting “confessions.” Official penalties included death, imprisonment, exile, confiscation of property, and enforced pilgrimage to distant sites.
“. . . millions of witches, sorcerers, possessed and obsessed were an enormous mass of severe neurotics [and ] psychotics. . . for many years the world looked like a veritable insane asylum. . . .” (Gregory Zilboorg).
“. . . the witch-craze was neither a lynching party nor a mass suicide by hysterical women. Rather, it followed well-ordered, legalistic procedures. The witch-hunts were well-organized campaigns, initiated, financed and executed by Church and State. . . .” (Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English)
It was, the annalist of the city Worms tells us, the year of Our Lord 1231:
There came by divine permission a miserable plague and most harsh sentence. For indeed there came a certain friar called Conrad Dors, and he was completely illiterate and of the Order of Preachers, and he brought with him a certain secular man named John who was one-eyed and maimed, and in truth utterly vile. These two, beginning … firstly among the poor, said that they knew who were heretics; and they began to burn them, those who confessed their guilt and refused to leave their sect. … And they condemned many who, in the hour of their death, called out with all their heart to our Lord Jesus Christ, and even in the fire strongly cried out, begging for the help of the holy Mother of God and all the saints.
The Socio-Economic Pressures and Religious Obligation as Driving Force behind the Papal Inquisition against the Cathars and the Testimonies of the Inhabitants of Southern France.
“The Penance of all the Cathari is, beyond all doubt, false, vain, delusive, and noxious. For in order to constitute true and fruitful penance, three things are required, namely, the contrition of heart, the confession of the mouth and the satisfaction of works,”
Rainer Sacconi, a Catholic priest on Cathars
In the year 1209, Arnauda da Lamotha of Montauban and her sister Peirona arrived at the house of Raymond Aymeric in Villemur, a region in the Midi-Pyrenees of southern France. Both women were asked by Raymond to swear themselves to God and the Gospel, and to refrain from eating meat, eggs, and cheese. The women promised not to swear or lie, not to give themselves to any passion and never to leave the sect in fear of punishment. After reading a prayer together, Raymond kissed both women on the mouth before witnesses while the women stood together with their shoulders turned sideways. The participants of this particular event were known as the Albigensians or Cathars. The ceremony performed by Raymond was referred to as consolamentum, which was an initiation ceremony for a widespread heretical sect in the medieval Europe.