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On understanding inquisition (II)

Summary

Christine Caldwell Ames explains what bothers us so much about the inquisitions today.

Summary

Christine Caldwell Ames explains what bothers us so much about the inquisitions today.

Transcript

The notion of heresy – the notion of Christian heresy particularly – is radically at odds with modern understandings of the individual, modern understandings of toleration. It is … this is why it’s so famous, because it does seem to symbolise – and has again for a long time symbolised – a kind of unmodern, untolerant diminution of the individual. And so I certainly appreciate, to look back upon a medieval experience that did police thought, did persecute people … and this is inarguable, medieval inquisitions punished people, they tortured people, they executed people. They executed fewer people than we used to think; but that’s no excuse, they did these things. And so it is difficult to look back on that experience and try to understand it, try to see it as a seminal part of medieval Christianity, as it was, because it is so counter to what we expect of modern norms of Christianity itself.