ESCENARIO: ACTUALIDAD
Posted on 6 th june of 2006

THE GREAT INQUISITOR AND THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH

Western culture, especially that which is represented by young people, seems to be showing signs of tiring of  “freedom” and this is an alarming risk to the immediate future of the very culture that created the framework of freedom, as we know it, including its universal pretensions.  The alert towards this danger is set forth by Professor Jorge Aurelio Diaz, a PhD from the University of Lavonia, who makes this reflection from the scene that marked the change of the Pope in Rome. The ideals of freedom of thought and tolerance to criticism, affirms Diaz, should be defended despite the relative disorder.  

Written by: Jorge Aurelio DÍAZ

What was a glorious burial of Pope John Paul II and the explosive choice of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the successor to the Pontificate, did no less than to bring the well known legend of the Grand Inquisitor that Fyodor Dostoyevsky communicates through the mouth of Ivan, in his novel The Karamazov Brothers when he says that Jesus has returned to the earth in the 16th century, to the city of Seville, Spain, precisely the day after a great autodafe in which “nearly 100 heretics ad majorem Dei gloriam.”

Upon seeing the crowd coming near to hear Jesus and admire his miracles, the Great Inquisitor puts him into jail. Later, in the night, he visits him in the prison cell where a delirious dialog; or better, a monologue ensues in which the Cardinal rebukes him for attempting to give freedom of choice back to humankind; a freedom that they are not prepared to take on.  

Because the people, relates the Inquisitor, “we’re joyous upon seeing themselves herded like a flock, once again, and why would you have taken from their hearts such a great gift which will now bring so many hardships.”  “How can Jesus even think of returning the heavy burden that the hierarchy has taken upon their shoulders to free humankind from having to worry?

The end of the monologue comes with great force: “The old cardinal wanted Jesus to say something to him, as bitter and terrible as it were. But, He, suddenly, in silence comes near to the elderly man and sweetly, he kisses him upon his bloodless, ninety-year old lips.”

A REJECTION OF RELATIVISM

It would be, nevertheless, clearly an exaggeration to attempt to compare the figure of the Great Inquisitor with that of  Cardinal Ratzinger, even though during more than the last 20 years he has been the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the heir to the terrible inquisition. It is true that the incorruptible theological orthodoxy of the German theologian and the firmness of his doctrinal interpretations have not warmed those who promote changes according to the current times in the Catholic Church.  

But today, when the ecclesiastic hierarchy does not have the secular power to repress the rebels, everything happens within more modest means. For this reason, it wouldn’t be fair to compare the figure of the austere professor, eminent theologian and sharp polemicist with the ancient Inquisitor described by Dostoyevsky.  It is something completely different that This legend awakens something completely different in those of us who could watch with admiration the splendid spectacle of the masses in St. Peter’s Square and the rapid election of the new Pontific a few months ago.

When the 115 Cardinals who came from every corner of the earth spectacularly decided to name the Prefect to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as the Reigning Pontific, there was no doubt that they were obeying a clear perception:  each day the number of people calling for a firm line of teaching amidst the ever growing number of prevalent relativistic doctrine is growing.  This is exactly what Cardinal Ratzinger preached in the sermon that preceded the conclave and this is what the majority of his Cardinal colleagues understood to be the legacy of the former Pope: the people are tired of not knowing what to obey, of seeing that everything is okay and that no one really knows in the end what should and should not be done.  As the old militant politicians would say: The masses need the party to draw clear lines of conduct.  

TIRING OF FREEDOM

So, if this sharp sense of reality that the Cardinals have just made known proves to be certain; and this, even more than their conservative, liberal, anachronistic or modern ideas, then the so called Great Inquisitor of Dostoyevsky would cover all the meaning. But, it wouldn’t be a simple comparison. It should be emphasized that the Cardinal who has been chosen as the Pope of the Catholic Church with the old Inquisitor has done so with the judgment that the Inquisitor has over the feelings of the people. “There is not for mankind-it is said-a greater preoccupation than that of finding as soon as possible whom to give this gift of freedom with which this shameful creature is born. But, only the freedom of those people who calm their consciences will be empowered.”

The electing Cardinals seem to have considered that the common people are beginning to get tired of so much freedom and of having to personally assume the responsibility of judging what should and should not be done and are asking to be released of this heavy weight and to be told, with good reason or not, what exactly is to be obeyed.  And this does not refer only or principally to the Catholics or to the Christians but rather it could be a call of universal character.

Hasn’t the Catholic Hierarchy, throughout the centuries, possessed a delicate ability to smell out what the people are waiting for even before these demands are made visible? This sharp sense of opportunity is the one that has permitted the Catholic Church to successfully sort through the difficult stages of their very long history.

Nevertheless, if this were the case and if the perception of the Cardinals were shown to be on target, not only the Catholic Institution would find itself in a consolidation process after the sustained Vatican Council II crisis, but also they could increase their membership taking on a more rigid attitude of the doctrines. Nonetheless, the ideals of free thought could face a great threat beyond the ecclesiastic limits. The phenomenon of the Conclave; the message that the Cardinals wanted to express with total clarity should be a wake up call for those of us who consider that the ideals of free thought and tolerance to criticism should be defended even at the cost of having to put up with undesirable levels of relative disorder.  

If western Christian culture has been the promoter and defender of freedom up to now, it could be that this ideal will begin to show worrying signs of wear and tear and falling apart. In fact, it could happen that the energy needed to confront the fundamentalist movements such as those seen in the Islamic world or in the recent political tendencies inside China could be lost. Currents of challenge are also beginning to be felt within religions before the otherwise tolerant such as in Hinduism. It cannot be forgotten that freedom isn’t a gift that is gained once and kept forever, but rather you arrive to it after long and hard work and it should be regained again and again. (aresprensa. com).


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