Who ran the Inqusition?

Don’t Blame Dominic

When I began to read “Inquisitions” by Cullen Murphy (January 27), I expected there would be reference to the Dominican order, of which I am a member. I acknowledge that some of my historic brethren were very zealous about their roles as inquisitors and preachers of truth, much to the detriment of both the order and the church. For that misplaced zeal, I sincerely apologize.

I am saddened, however, by the painting subtitled “Saint Dominic presiding over an auto-da-fe” (Berruguet, c. 1495) that accompanies the article, because it wrongly depicts Dominic as the head of the Dominican Inquisitorial movement. In fact the Inquisition postdates Dominic’s life (1170–1221), and had he been alive to witness such atrocities in the name of truth, his heart would have been broken.

Dominic had a healthy respect for the Catharists, or Albigensians, who lived in the Languedoc region of southern France. Dominic himself lived in the Languedoc region and saw firsthand the bloodshed of the Albigensian Crusade. He believed that there had to be a better way to deal with the movement than to slaughter thousands of innocent people, many of them refugees.

Dominic chose to live in Fanjeaux, which was a well-known Cathar village. Cathars were his...

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