The grand inquisitor is at it again

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 January, 2012, 12:00am


The Grand Inquisitor, in Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov, is bent on executing Christ once he has ascertained this really is Jesus in the Second Coming.

When you review Pope Benedict's career, you wonder if you are not looking at a real-life grand inquisitor. First of all, the pope really was an inquisitor. After being promoted to cardinal, he was put in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly called the Inquisition.

A long list of suspected cover-ups and conspiracies involving paedophile priests around the world flowed out of his office. The infamy does not end now that he is pope. The latest scandal has to do with the removal of the second-in-charge of the administration of the Vatican city-state. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano was the whistle-blower who exposed corruption in the awarding of work contracts and of bankers taking care of Vatican finances.

He was promptly 'promoted' to be an envoy to Washington. The prestige of his new job means no one could accuse the Vatican of demoting him. And that would have been the end of it had Italian news media not obtained letters Vigano wrote to the pope, pleading that he be allowed to stay.

Reassigning troublemakers from job to job has been the church's standard practice. Paedophile priests were moved around in Ireland, Australia and the US over decades. But in 2001 Joseph Ratzinger, as the pope was then known, added a new twist when the Congregation issued a confidential letter to every bishop warning them that anyone who reported to authorities outside the church child abuse involving priests faced excommunication. It's hard not to read the letter, exposed by London newspaper The Observer in 2005, as a policy of obstructing justice.

For the Grand Inquisitor, nothing and no one is allowed to threaten the legitimacy and existence of the earthly church, not even Christ.