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Thursday, August 24, 2017
Date Posted:

How The Holy Inquisition Works Today

Dr Clive Gillis

On Tuesday October 21st l890, HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (1844-1900), who had just been appointed Commander-in-Chief at Devonport, unveiled the monument to the Armada on Plymouth Hoe.

The date was the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.  On the south face of the monument were inscribed the words “He blew with His winds, and they were scattered,” reproduced from the reverse of the famous Armada medal of Elizabeth 1.

But the end is not yet.  The fight against Rome continues.  Sixteen years earlier, in the same city of Plymouth, so rich in Protestant history, the Rev William Harris Rule had written in the preface to his two volume History of the Inquisition: “All churches that have lost the Spirit of Christ are given to persecute, but no church on earth except the Church of Rome, has had a separate institution for the inquest and punishment of heresy, with a peculiar code of laws and appointed courts, judges and officers.  This and this only is the INQUISITION”.

William Rule was writing in the age of revolutions, when Rome’s temporal power was being overthrown.  Rule concluded, “I am no longer predicting a speedy extinction of it everywhere, as when I wrote my last preface, but have the happiness of recording the accomplished fact”.

It is true that the dungeons, torture chambers, prisons and great public burnings may have gone, but Rome’s persecuting spirit still emanates from the same building that it did in Rule’s time.

Heavily fortified

The illustration in Rule’s first volume is a view of the façade of the Inquisition.  We reproduce it alongside the only view available to the public today, that is, with the photographer’s back to the Bernini colonnades, looking through the twenty foot high, massively fortified, steel barrier, manned by the Swiss guard.  Rule’s photograph shows the identical building from with Vatican City, looking back to the Bernini colonnades, with no barrier. Far from having become a museum or art gallery this building is still the nerve centre of Rome’s persecuting endeavours, now heavily fortified.

Rome “is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Rev 18:2).  Hence the fate of erring Romish theologians under Chief Inquisitor Prefect Ratzinger, is of no particular interest to us except to show that the Spirit of Inquisition lives on today.

In the middle ages, familiars, or Inquisition spies, reported heretics who were secretly investigated and then forcibly detained without stated reason, to face the Inquisitors.  Amazingly this pattern is still followed.  Any Romanist can denounce any other to the Inquisition confidentially.  Those being investigated are only informed officially at a late stage.  One theologian only discovered that he was being investigated when a colleague informed him that he was requested immediately to return copies of his books to the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, because the Inquisition needed them.

The Ratio agendi (Manner of proceeding) against heretics published at Rome, by the Inquisition on June 29, 1997, is on the official Vatican website.  The Vatican makes no secret of the threat it poses to heretic transgressors. The Inquisition “has the duty of examining writings and opinions which appear contrary to correct faith or dangerous … This fundamental pastoral responsibility concerns all the pastors of the Church, who have the duty and the right to exercise vigilance,” or, in other words, spy on one another.  

This “vigilance” leads to a Preliminary examination.  “The indicated writings or teaching are given attention by the competent Office, which submits them to the examination of the Congresso (the weekly meeting of the Superiors and Officials of the Congregation).

After a preliminary evaluation of the gravity of the question, the Congresso decides whether or not to undertake a study by the Office”.

The Office study follows.  The theologian’s work is then “carefully examined with the collaboration of one or more Consultors or other experts in the particular area”.   If they decide a witch-hunt is in order the Ordinary procedure of examination commences.

Those found heretical then face Disciplinary measures.  No longer physically burnt at the stake, Rome does the worst she can.  “If the author has not corrected the indicated errors in a satisfactory way and with adequate publicity, and the Sessione Ordinaria has concluded that he has committed the offense of heresy, apostasy or schism, the Congregation proceeds to declare the latae sententiae penalties incurred; against such a declaration no recourse is admitted”.

This usually means that their licence to teach in Romanist universities is withdrawn and since heresy taints by association they are shunned by colleagues.  As in the Middle Ages the process is exquisitely slow and laborious leaving victims in suspense for years.  A story once leaked out from the Inquisition that a baby was found in its corridors.  Ratzinger was horrified but he was reassured by a junior Inquisitor that anything conceived within their walls could never reach fruition in only nine months!

Dominus Iesus

As far as Protestants are concerned, the Inquisition marked the year 2000 Jubilee by reaffirming Rome’s unique “salvific” position.  The Inquisition’s Declaration was entitled Dominus Iesus (see Box).  It was ratified by the Pope in June and published by the Inquisition in August.  The English edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano issued the full text as a special supplement to an edition which also covered the beatification of Pius IX, the Pope who affirmed papal infallibility in 1870.  This appeared under the sub headline, “Pius IX gave absolute primacy to God and spiritual values”.  The insert was lavishly illustrated with early icons of a severe looking Christ.  L’Osservatore pointedly included one from the national Museum of Lviv in the Ukraine, the heartland of the battle between the Latin Rite and Russian Orthodox churches.

Dominus Iesus granted “sister church” status to the Eastern Orthodox Churches but “on the other hand” denied that Protestant churches are true Churches.  Ratzinger held a Vatican press conference on September 5th.  He is reported as saying “the document was a necessary response to the theology of religious pluralism, which is growing not only in theological circles, but also more generally in Catholic public opinion … there is a growing body of opinion suggesting that other religions can offer an important complement to the teachings of Christianity.”

“The cardinal pointed out that many people today view the (Roman) Church’s traditional claim to be the unique and universals means to salvation as a bit of fundamentalism which is an attack on the modern spirit and a menace to toleration and liberty.  Because of that attidude, he continued, many people see ecumenical dialogue as an end in itself.  Dialogue – or rather the ideology of dialogue – becomes a substitute for missionary activity and for the urgency of an appeal to conversion.”  Rome accepts nothing less than capitulation to herself, something the ecumenists will one day discover for themselves.

Unum Sanctum

Ratzinger continued, “This mistaken notion of dialogue … emphasizes not a search for objective and absolute truth, but a desire to put all religious beliefs on the same plane.  And such dialogue gives rise to a false idea of tolerance, which allows respect for other beliefs because it rejects the possibility of any objective truth”.  Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary to the Inquisition, observed that “Dominus Iesus does not contain any new teaching, but reaffirms and restates the doctrine of the Catholic faith in answer to contemporary problems and theories.”  (See Unum Sanctum in the box.)  “He emphasized that because it comes from the Holy See, with the explicit authorization of the Pope, the document must be viewed as the teaching of the Magisterium (the body of teaching of the infallible popes), rather than just another theological opinion.”

Ecclesial community

The “Sister” status of the Eastern Orthodox Churches was soon the subject of a clarifying Note by Ratzinger on the 14th September 2000, intended to harden the position against “ambiguities”.  The Orthodox must accept the papal primacy to become part the true (Roman) Church, and the term “Sister” must never be used of Protestant churches.  Interviewed on 22nd September by Frank-furter Allgemeine he spoke more freely.  When asked to comment upon the fact that, “the ecclesial status of Anglicans and Protestants is not acknowledged” in Dominus Iesus he replied that during the Jubilee he aimed to bring “what is essential firmly to the centre of this occasion”.  He was then asked to comment on “The fact is that the Evangelical side now considers the definition ecclesial community an offence.  The harsh reactions to your document are clear proof of this.”

Ratzinger replied, “I find the claim of our Lutheran friends frankly absurd, that we are to consider these structures (the Reformed Churches), resulting from chance historical events, (to be) the Church in the same way (that) we believe (that) the (Roman) Catholic Church founded on the apostolic succession …. is the Church”.

He also quoted Luther’s condemnation of the Roman Church as the Antichrist in such a convoluted way that one felt he was implying the exact reverse.  He went on to affirm the Bible can only be truly interpreted by Rome.

A rumour in 1996 hinted that John Paul II wanted to rescind the excommunication of Luther, but that Ratzinger personally blocked it.  Ratzinger is certainly on record in 1998 as confirming that “the anathemas levelled at Lutherans by the Council of Trent are still in force”.  Readers will recall the negotiations upon the doctrine of justification by faith between the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation at that time, leading to the Joint Declaration of the 25th June 1998.  Readers may also recall the subsequent bizarre Vatican Response document backtracking on the core points.  Ratzinger is generally believed to be the prime mover behind the Response, despite his protestation that it is a “smooth lie” that he wished to strangle the Joint Declaration at birth.  A compromise was reached in this murky affair when Ratzinger took a leading role in producing an Annex document which was designed to save everyone’s face whilst ensuring that the final agreement was on his own carefully worded terms.

Rome – Always the same.

1300 AD Unum Sanctum … Consequently we declare assert define and pronounce that to be subject to the Roman Pontiff is to every creature necessary to Salvation … promulgated November 18, 1302.

2000 AD Dominus Iesus: On the Unity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church. IV. Unicity and Unity of the Church

16. “The Catholic faithful are required to profess (italics Rome’s) that there is an historical continuity – rooted in the apostolic succession – between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church: This is the single Church of Christ … (which) … continues to exist fully only in the (Roman) Catholic Church … This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the (Roman) Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.”

17. “Therefore there exists a single Church of Christ which subsists in the (Roman) Catholic Church governed by the successor of Peter … The (Eastern Orthodox) Churches while not existing in perfect communion with the (Roman) Catholic Church remain united … by apostolic succession a valid Eucharist (Mass) and are true particular (disobedient) Churches … since they do not accept the (Roman) Catholic doctrine of the Primacy (of the Pope of Rome) which according to the will of God the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.

“On the other hand the ecclesial communities (Protestant heretics) which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and genuine and integral substance of the eucharistic mystery (Mass) are not churches in the proper sense …”


“The intention of the present Declaration in reiterating and clarifying certain truths … is … to reconfirm the (Roman) Church’s faith …”.

John Paul II The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience of June 16, 2000, granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with sure knowledge and by his apostolic authority, ratified and confirmed this Declaration, adopted in Plenary Session and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, August 6, 2000, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. +Joseph Ratzinger Prefect +Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli, Secretary.

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