Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Torture's slippery slope ... then and now

The Episcopal Cafe has something about an article at The Huffington Post about the Inquisition. The latter post ... The Top 10 Questions Everyone Has About the Inquisition ... is by Cullen Murphy, writer, former managing editor of The Atlantic, and present editor at Vanity Fair. You can read about his recent book, God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World, in this NYT review - The Influence of the Inquisition. I haven't read the book myself, so can't speak personally to its worth, nut it's interesting how he compares the Inquisition to our modern torture scenarios.

Here's one of the questions in The Huffington Post post ...

7. When I think "Inquisition," I think "torture" -- is that real or is it a myth?

Torture was an integral part of the inquisitorial process, mainly to extract confessions -- just as it was part of the systems used by secular courts of the time. Modern historians explain that the Church tried to regulate torture, establishing clear guidelines for its use. Unfortunately, limitations on torture never really work -- that's one lesson from the Inquisition, and from the recent American experience. It's never hard to justify applying a little more physical coercion once you've decided that physical coercion is fine to begin with. Medieval inquisitors, limited to one session of torture per person, sometimes conducted a second or third or fourth, arguing that it was just a "continuance" of the first.


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