January 3, 2012

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF                                     – Franklin D. Roosevelt

I’m half way through my reading of Barbara Walker’s book “Man Made God” and found the history of the Inquisition tough going. The acts of brutality over those 500 years are as vicious as the human mind can imagine and, based on Papal records, Walker speculates that nearly nine million people were killed during that period. (“Man Made God” pg. 211) 

Justice and the rule of law were the greatest victims, however. Pope Gregory XVI in his bull of 1832, “Mirari vos” called freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom of education “a filthy sewer full of heretical vomit” (“Man Made God” pg. 209). The procedures for hearings against the accused were kept secret. The accused was not allowed counsel or told the name of the accuser(s) and torture was regularly applied. (“Man Made God” pg. 204)

(courtesy: webconferencingcouncil.com)

I doubt that anyone of sound mind would defend the acts of the Inquisition today or its values as expressed by Pope Gregory XVI. Still, there seems to be a bit of history repeating itself as the United States engages in its War on Terror. Not only has torture been secretly applied during the George W. Bush years, but some of these same practices have become sanctioned in the new defense bill President Obama has just signed. A recent report “Destination 2012” stated that the legislation would “deny suspected terrorists, even U.S. Citizens seized within the nation’s borders, the right to a trial and subject them to indefinite detention.” (Yahoo News, “Destination 2012” 12/12/11).

Each of us must ask ourselves if we want US citizens swept off the streets and held indefinitely in secret prisons based suspicions and speculation. I know how I shall answer. I desire a safe America and a safe world, but I am not the first to observe that fear itself is an emotion to be feared. Due process is the linchpin of justice. Without it we are left with arbitrary decisions akin to Papal bull.