The New Pope and Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor

The Church in South America continues to hold a function similar to that of the conquista days. It is an instrument of oppression.

And like at one time in Feudal Europe, the Church if not the army is where landowners send their kids. Anyone who wants to redistribute land and find social justice will find the juggernaut of the Church on their path. Like with the army its officer corps is populated by haves.

When Ratzinger was elevated I read a story about him recommending a chapter from the Brothers Karamazov to a student. The chapter deals with the coming of Jesus to Spain of the inquisition, “The Grand Inquisitor”.  The Grand Inquisitor, a Jesuit, jails Christ after the latter appeared to the people and berates him for disappearing and leaving the Church to deal with his aftermath.

Ratzinger never explained why the student ought to read it, just that. How can you justify the oppression of the Church in places like South America? Through the rant of Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor. It may well be how the Church is forced to see itself especially in light of its behaviour in South America.

The Church is an uncomfortable coalition. Northern Europe had its moment of theological liberation in the 16th and 17th century when bibles were translated in the local languages and people took their own council. Consequently, the church in Northern Europe is much more liberal. In Africa the Church in some places like Congo is the only organisation that still aids people where all other NGO’s have left. In China the Church even is an agent of personal emancipation. In South America and places like Haiti it is oppressive but has in some areas included so much of the old religion that it is hard to still see as Catholic.

This pope’s origin doesn’t condemn him to repeating history. He actually in a way is an Italian pope: his father was from Northern Italy and so were the parents of his mother. So he wasn’t bred into the hispanic hierarchy. What also is interesting is that he is a trained chemist. Which means (non-Jesuit) rationalism is a known quantity to him.