A roving Vanity Fair journalist takes a swaggering stab at the Inquisition.
There were many Inquisitions—also lowercased—and inquiring author Murphy (Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America, 2007, etc.) traces the tentacles of the righteous persecution of “heretical depravity” up to the present, when the fallout from 9/11 especially reawakened the urge for surveillance, censorship, torture and a general “us versus them” mentality. The author first explores the three institutions that bore the name: the Medieval Inquisition, put into effect in 1231 by Pope Gregory IX in order to quash the heretical Cathars in southern France; the Spanish Inquisition, launched by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1478; and the Roman Inquisition, taken up with relish under Pope Paul III, in 1542, and intended to stop the dissemination of heretical thought and print. While the persecution of the Cathars lasted only a century and was completely successful (“Have you ever met a Cathar?”), the Spanish Inquisition perfected the art of torture under Tomás de Torquemada, culminating in the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain and the spread of global inquisition to the Americas. The Roman Inquisition had to stem the flood of Reformation ideas pouring out of the new printing presses, resulting in a massive buildup of archives that have only been opened to visiting scholars since 1998. The Holy Office would be the relentless persecutor of scientists and free thinkers, from Galileo to Graham Greene. Murphy visits the modern incarnation of the Vatican’s inquisition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1981 onward, which decrees on matters of cloning, same-sex marriage, etc.
Entertaining, lively chronicle of the Inquisition, touching on a wide variety of issues across the centuries.