Julian vs. Bullying, Anti-Semitism, and the Inquisition, continued

In discussing Julian of Norwich, who was a feminist theologian 700 years before feminism, we have necessarily come up against the topic of patriarchy and bullying.  Yesterday we treated anti-Semitism as bullying. 

Pope Paul IV. Anonymous portrait from Vatican archives, on Wikimedia Commons.

Clearly, the Inquisition is an institutional form of bullying.  While it is rare for an Inquisitor to become pope, Gian Pietro Caraffa, who became Pope Paul IV (1555-1559), was such a figure.  Among his bullying acts as pope was to ratify the Statute of Toledo which forbade persons with Jewish blood to hold office.  He forbade Jews to possess any religious book except the Bible and abolished Hebrew printing in Rome, which had become the capital of Hebrew printing in the Renaissance.  He forbade Jews to own any real estate or attend any Christian University or to hire any Christian servants.  He increased Jewish taxes and insisted Jews wear distinctive badges and address Christians as “sir.”  He put the Talmud on the Index of Forbidden Books.

Above all, he created the original Jewish ghetto in Rome one mile from the Vatican. In one month, all Jews were rounded up and relocated to an area one mile square with only one entrance.  Jews had to pay for constructing the enclosure.  As many as 10,000 persons lived there at one time.  Says Cardinal Edward Cassidy, “The ghetto, which came into being in 1555 with a papal bull, became in Nazis Germany the antechamber of the extermination.” 

Contemporary illustration of the Auto-da-fé held at Valladolid Spain 21-05-1559. Detail of print by print by Frans Hogenberg. On Wikimedia Commons.

The Inquisition reached a high point of wantonness in the Spanish Inquisition under Torquemada.  Rome was envious of the power he wielded in Spain, being close to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella as he was, but Rome could do nothing about it.  Torquemada had to stay at arm’s length from the Vatican itself, however.  Interestingly, Ratzinger and John Paul II actually tried to canonize Queen Isabella, the patron of Torquemada, a saint!  Torquemada and Isabella, among other things, expelled at least 80,000 Jews from Spain and confiscated their property and belongings–and killed more than 2,000 people at the stake.

Pope John Paul II (r) and then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. Photographer unknown.

Over the course of 34 years as popes, JP II and Benedict XVI proceeded to dismantle the thinking and creativity that had been unleashed by Pope John XXIII in the Vatican Council—thinking that included liberation theology and base communities in Latin America and beyond, lively liturgies, rich theological exploration and courageous stands against injustice.  In the dying days of the Cold War, liberation theology was a convenient political target.  Experimental liturgies in Holland and Brazil and creation spirituality movements in North America and beyond were also expunged.  Bullying ensued.  In all, 108 theologians around the world were silenced and/or dismissed (I list them in my book by name and country).  I was in that list.

A theologian’s job is to think—to think through the inherited legacy of the church, and apply it to an evolving culture.  A church without theologians is a bit like General Motors without engineers. 

Julian thought for herself—and beyond patriarchy and bullying to God as Mother.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Pope’s War: How Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved, pp. xxxxxxvi, 33-105, 238-241.  

See Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 45-87, 109-124.

Banner Image: The Roman Ghetto, c. 1880. From a painting by Ettore Roesler Franz. On Wikimedia Commons.

Meditate on what Pope Paul IV did to the Jewish people in the sixteenth century.  How does it echo twentieth-century acts of anti-Semitic terrorism?  How does one prevent this from happening in the name of religion or nationhood ever again?

The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved

The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The final section in the book focuses on birthing a truly catholic Christianity.
“This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity.” ~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope.
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.”   — Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

Upcoming Events

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4 thoughts on “Julian vs. Bullying, Anti-Semitism, and the Inquisition, continued”

  1. Avatar

    If justice does indeed “roll down like a river,” a lot of white men will drown if they don’t take the hand of Divine LOVE in surrender and submission. }:- a.m.

  2. Avatar

    Without a receptive humble posture to receive the Spirit of Love, people unknowingly forsake wisdom. Without wisdom, the cohabitation of faith and reason does not exist. Again and again we are shown the consequences of such ignorance in profound suffering. Until we open our eyes and hold sacred space for beauty and goodness as the highest priority, grace and mercy are still looking for a home. The time is now to wake up.

  3. Avatar

    Dear Matthew,
    Thank you for all the information you have given me in the last year!!!!! I have taken your course on St Thomas Aquinas, just finishing the one on Julian. This is what prompted me to sign up for this daily letter. So much story has been hidden regarding the true story of humanity.. I am so grateful for your bravery and your commitment to the oneing. You are a beacon of hope that we can clear the noosphere of human consciousness and be the golden beings we are meant to be.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Thank you so much for your kind words and more power to you in your taking classes that help you on your way spiritually. We are glad we could be of service!

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