Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Quoniam Abundavit Iniquitas: Dominicans as Inquisitors, Inquisitors as Dominicans

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Quoniam Abundavit Iniquitas: Dominicans as Inquisitors, Inquisitors as Dominicans

Article excerpt

QUONIAM ABUNDAVIT INIQUITAS: DOMINICANS AS INQUISITORS, INQUISITORS AS DOMINICANS Praedicatores, Inquisitores. I. The Dominicans and the Medieval Inquisition. Acts of the 1st Internatonal Seminar on the Dominicans and the Inquisition. Edited by Wolfram Hoyer, O.P. [Institutum Historicum Fratrum Praedicatorum Romae, Dissertationes Historicae, Fasciculus XXIX.] (Rome: Istituto Storico Domenicano. 2004. Pp. 816; 1 plate.)

One of the most striking antipapal cartoons of the nineteenth century depicts a statue of St. Dominic about to be raised by ropes and pulleys to the top of a monumental column set in "The Infamous Piazza of the Holy Office." The inscription on the base of the column (partly concealed by the statue, here conjecturally emended) reads: "A ETERNA / [INF]AME MEMORIA / DEL / [SANTO] UFFIZIO / [RO]MA LIBERATA / ANNO M.D.C.[C.C.] IL." In the saint's hands the traditional Dominican inquisitorial emblematic devices of the leaved branch of mercy and the sword of justice have been replaced by a nasty scourge and a sinister-looking dagger. Two dogs run up the street alongside the column, the Domini canes-the hounds of God. The picture was part of the protest against the restoration of papal authority in Rome and the rest of the Papal States (and with it, of course, the Inquisition and its inevitable Dominican agents), after the failed Roman revolution of 1848, although the Latin title of the picture-Ad majorent Dei gloriam, is, incongruously, the motto of the Jesuits.1

Ironically, all the components of this hostile iconography-loyalty to the papacy, Dominic as saint and inquisitor (think of the wonderfully anachronistic painting by Pedro Berruguete), the Spanish Dominican inquisitorial emblems of mercy and justice, and the (surely much later) play on the name of the founder that came to be associated with the image of the hounds of God (grandly memorialized in Andrea de Firenze's frescoes in the Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella in Florence)-originated in the Order of Preachers itself, creating what Grado Merlo, in his fine introductory essay to this volume, calls, "il binomio frati Predicatori/inquisitori," the inseparable identification of Dominicans and Inquisition, most recently (and tiresomely) reiterated in the depiction of Bernard Gui,O.P., in the novel and (quite awful) film, The Name of the Rose.2 But if many Dominican inquisitors and historians found it to their advantage to identify the Order and the institution, so did the enemies of both. Periodic lay and other hostility toward the persons and sentences of Dominican inquisitors in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries often resulted in acts of violence against the local Dominican community, inquisitors or not. For better or worse, the binomial identification has had a long history.

I

But is that conventional history the history? Jean-Louis Biget has recently pointed out that "the precise evaluation of the role [of the Order of Preachers] in this area [i.e., that of inquisition history] remains an open problem and would itself take up an entire scholarly conference."3 The present volume contains the acta of just such a scholarly conference. Introductory remarks by Arturo Bernai, O.P., President of the Dominican Historical Institute in Rome (pp. 5-7), provide a historical context for the two Dominican conferences on Dominicans as inquisitors, the papers of the first of which constitute the volume under review. The call for a "purification of memory" in John Paul II's Tertio Millennia Adveniente of 1994 and the International Theological Commission's Memoria e riconciliazione: la Chiesa e le colpe del passato of 2000 inspired the Order of Preachers to consider its own memory and history.4 Charged by the General Chapter meeting at Bologna in 1998 with, " [examining] the role played by some of [the Order's] members in the injustices of the past in order to help to purify our memory and involve the Order in a quest for truth leaving the judgement of people to God alone," the Dominican Historical Institute in Rome held this conference in February, 2002. …

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