Pope Francis Calls the Inquisition ‘Immoral’
Archbishop V.M. Fernandez, new ‘broom’ at the DDF
Pope Francis has called the ‘persecutions’ of the Roman Inquisition – the predecessor of the church’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith – immoral, and ordered the DDF’s new head, Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, to ‘keep the faith’ by serving the causes of divine mercy and evangelisation.
This message is conveyed in a letter to the Archbishop, published first in Spanish on the Vatican website and dated July 1st, 2023.
In the view of Vatican observer Robert Mickens the letter is likely to be critically received by Pope Francis’s leading adversaries, one of whom is Cardinal Gerhard Müller, a former head of the DDF who was dismissed by the pope – to his own public annoyance – in 2017.
The following passages from the pope’s latest letter are likely to provoke particular criticism by conservatives who oppose the pope’s style of leadership and tend to support the censorship style of the DDF followed by Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
“The Department that you will preside over in other times came to use immoral methods. They were times where, rather than promoting theological knowledge, possible doctrinal errors were persecuted. What I expect of you is undoubtedly something very different.”
“In order not to limit the meaning of this task, it must be added that it is about ‘increasing intelligence and the transmission of faith at the service of evangelization, so that its light is a criterion for understanding the meaning of existence, especially in the face of to the questions raised by the progress of science and the development of society’. These issues, embraced in a renewed proclamation of the evangelical message, “become instruments of evangelization”, because they allow us to enter into conversation with “the current context in what is unprecedented in the history of humanity”.
“What’s more, you know that the Church “needs to grow in its interpretation of the revealed Word and in its understanding of the truth” without this implying the imposition of a single way of expressing it.”
It is not yet clear if this new direction for the DDF, formerly the ‘Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’ (CDF
) could lead to the reinstatement of priests silenced by it in the past. One of these is Ireland’s Fr Tony Flannery
, founder of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests, who was banned from ministering as a priest in 2012.
An early victim of the Roman Inquisition was the astronomer Galileo Gallilei, who was tried and silenced in 1633.