El Greco's Inquisitor

Whoa.

What 'in heaven's name' inspired this rather incredible poem?

Did you recently encounter this portrait?

The net is up and you're hitting aces.

Posted by Cathy at October 31, 2009 6:48 AM

I don't remember the wine-stained satin lace. When I was audited, the IRS agent just wore a dark suit.

Posted by Gagdad Bob at October 31, 2009 8:47 AM

Gerard, I've been with you for forever, and always defended you. But this post was a cheap shot at a tired old target. Attack the Catholic Church for Ted Kennedy's funeral, for all the evil fake Catholics in Obama's admin (that should be publicly excommunicated), for the priests' scandals, but that tripe about the Inquisition is just asinine. Anyone as brilliant as you can do better.

Posted by jade at October 31, 2009 4:54 PM

What's the point. Have you over indulged.

Posted by Cliff at October 31, 2009 7:33 PM

Loathe as I am to elucidate a poem, it's about power, not about the Church. And it's about the nature of any inquisition and the tendency of power to institute inquisition regardless of the costumes they wear even unto our present, pleasant moment.

This particular poem has been worked on since around 1999. I have never, even for a second, thought it was an attack on the Catholic Church, but skins may be thinner.

That said, I think it is interesting that such can be read into it. Poets and writers all come to the poem with what they have and take from it what they can.

It's also about looking at the actual painting (not a print) and seeing the artist's intent, the sitter's revealing nature, and the conjunction of the two.

Posted by vanderleun at October 31, 2009 7:39 PM

The subject of the portrait is thought to be (not known to be)

"Cardinal Fernando NiƱo de Guevara (n. Toledo in 1541, m. Sevilla? On January 8 of 1609) was a religion of Spain, Archbishop of Seville and inquisitor general."

He served as inquisitor general from 1599 to 1602. Before that he studied law and was a judge in Valladolid.

The Inquisitor General, in charge of the Holy Office, was designated by the crown. The Inquisitor General was the only public office whose authority stretched to all the kingdoms of Spain

The most serious punishment was relaxation to the secular arm, which implied burning at the stake. This penalty was frequently applied to impenitent heretics and those who had relapsed. Execution was public. If the condemned repented, they were garroted before the body was given to the flames. If not, they were burned alive.

During his tenure 240 heretics were burned, plus 96 in statue. 1628 individuals were found guilty of one sort or another of heresy and subjected to lesser penalties.

Not a lot by today's standards, but the world was larger and the speed was slower.

Then again when you reflect that the total number of executions for the Inquisition from 1540 to 1700 was 1,080 you can see that at 240 in only 3 years he was certainly doing his part.

If you don't think there is a growing standard secular gospel unfolding and haven't noticed the increased price to be paid for heresy, you haven't been paying attention.

Posted by vanderleun at October 31, 2009 7:41 PM

I don't think that the point of this poem could have been made any more obvious than it already was. If Catholics would acknowledge a very bad century or two they could stand out front warning us of what we are getting into instead of ducking imagined affronts.

Posted by james wilson at October 31, 2009 8:50 PM

Catholic revert here. Got the poem - a critique not limited to abuse of power in my church, but abuse of power generally. I acknowledge the evil of the Inquisition and priest abuse scandal (still injustice going on in the sheltering of certain bishops at the Vatican)...

Now, if only we could get the Left to acknowledge the recent evil done by giving unconstrained power to Leftists, which makes the Inquisitor General's efforts look paltry and pathetic. We all know the WH Communication Director Anita Dunn's favorite "political" philosopher is Mao, right? And she still has her job.

Posted by Western Chauvinist at November 1, 2009 7:25 AM

The Catholics didn't have a monopoly on religious persecution.

The Puritans came here because of religious persecution and after they arrived proceeded to persecute those of other religious persuasions.

Posted by Ray at November 1, 2009 11:51 AM

"Behind the science of his spectacles
Lives a mind reduced by power.
A gesture from his languid wrists --
All's over in an hour."

In the end, evil will not be judged by wanting many truly good things, but by wanting too little.

Craving power and dominion are NOT good things.

Posted by Denny at November 2, 2009 5:54 AM

Selfishly, it relieves me to know you've been polishing this for a decade plus.

My response - even as a serious defender of the Catholic faith - was to the your deft creation of the terrifying spectre of human helplessness before irrational power.

And. With the net up.

Posted by Cathy at November 2, 2009 10:14 AM

All men who were ever able to seize power and use it for their own benefit have done so...kings, generals, presidents, doctors, judges, and organized religion.

This organized religion would have big problems with Christ today...he would be a threat to its wealth, wielding of power, hypocrisy, endless rules, self-proclaimed infallibility, lack of humility, and criminal wrongdoings against those "little ones, which whoever damages them, better put a stone around his neck and jump into the sea" as the gospel goes....

Posted by Athens at April 26, 2010 3:22 AM

This organized religion would have big problems with Christ today...he would be a threat to its wealth, wielding of power, hypocrisy, endless rules, self-proclaimed infallibility, lack of humility, and criminal wrongdoings against those "little ones, which whoever damages them, better put a stone around his neck and jump into the sea" as the gospel goes....

I think Athens nails it, with this comment, and one must note that if Christ were physically walking the earth, today, He would not only be overturning tables and driving clerics out of the Church for the scandal of abuses of children, but the scandal of abuses of power and the misleading of the laity by those who hold the clerical reins of power in all denominations.

Posted by John Venlet at January 31, 2013 8:33 AM

Tocqueville-
"As long as religion relies upon feelings which are the consolation of every suffering, it may attract the human heart....but by uniting with different political powers, can ... form only burdensome alliances.
In Europe, Christianity has allowed itself to be closely linked with the powers of this world. Today these powers are collapsing and it is virtually buried beneath their ruins. Unbelievers in Europe attack Christians more as political enemies than as religious opponents."

Granting powers of government to religion is ruinous to both government and religion. The Founders believed this to a man. It was no contradiction to them to say that an irreligious people could not govern itself as free men. An irreligious ruling class is governing the West back into serfdom.

"I doubt whether man can ever support at the same time complete religious independence and entire political freedom and am drawn to the thought that if a man is without faith, he must serve someone and if he is free, he must believe."

Posted by james wilson at January 31, 2013 9:50 AM

"The Catholics didn't have a monopoly on religious persecution.

The Puritans came here because of religious persecution and after they arrived proceeded to persecute those of other religious persuasions."

Yup. Even more so, those of none.

Posted by Fletcher Christian at February 2, 2013 12:18 PM
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