Poised for Power
The Vatican is well on its way toward its clear and quiet goal of unquestioned religious prominence on the world scene. Pope John Paul II’s recent decision to support an investigation into the Inquisition (a campaign against heresy, authorized by the popes, which saw those accused of dissent tried, tortured and burned at the stake between the 13th and the 19th centuries) marks the climax of a series of gestures by the Vatican intended to clear the church’s collective conscience of its sins over the past 2,000 years and boost public relations, gaining respect and credibility in the minds of its modern adherents and the world. This will set the Holy See in a more favorable light at the advent of the new millennium as it attempts, like its old co-worker Germany, to leave the past behind once and for all.
As the church prepares a document in advance of the millennium which will ask for a general pardon for its sins over the past 2,000 years, it is also making forgiveness more readily available to its adherents. Pope John Paul II has declared that in celebration of the approaching third millennium of Christianity, “penitents who do a charitable deed or give up cigarettes or alcohol for a day can earn an ‘indulgence’ to eliminate punishment on earth or in purgatory…. The medieval church sold indulgences, a practice that drove Martin Luther to rebel, leading to the Reformation” (New York Times, Nov. 28, 1998).
This bold link to its past, even as the church carefully prepares its request for forgiveness of its dark past, shows that the old beast has just put on a friendlier facade. As the Associated Press News stated October 30, 1998, “The church remains unrelenting in both its campaign against any weakening of authority or doctrine and its drive to clear its conscience of past excesses.”