Monday, 01 August 2011
By Nick-Don at Theopolitical
Torture is part of the Christian past. From a Catholic point of view, the church does indeed have penance to do for the Inquisition. But how? I propose that the way to do penance for the Inquisition is to speak out and resist torture as it is practiced now…. Confession of our sin would require not simply the admission that torture has been done in our name, but the confession that only God is God, and not any nation-state that claims to save us from evil. Christians worship a God who was tortured to death by the empire; it is this God who saves by saying no to violence on the cross. Our penance, then, would take the form of resisting the idolatry of nation and state and its attendant violence. Catholicism should be particularly equipped for this, since it is a worldwide church that transgresses the artificial boundaries of all nation-states.- William T. Cavanaugh, How to Do Penance for the Inquisition
This quote comes from an essay Cavanaugh wrote in the aftermath of a book about the torture of the Pinochet regime and the church’s eventual resistance to such practices. Questioners at lectures often asked him how a Catholic of all people could write a book against torture. And while the conventional narrative of the Inquisition is often distorted, it is true that torture figures into Christian history.
I buy into Cavanaugh’s notion of penance and corporate responsibility. I know that in our fiercely individualistic culture that’s a notion often rejected. But I accept it, because history and tradition are a huge part of what makes us into the individuals we are. So I take the idea of social penance seriously.
Which makes me wonder how the church should publicly react to actions carried out by those who claim to be Christians, but are clearly not Christian actions. Lump into this category the Norway killer, Fred Phelps, Scott Roeder, etc. How accountable should the church be for these kinds of actions/people? What form could such an accountability take?