Worthy fight to right the church

Thomas Clark’s April 25 letter, “Christian witness to abolitionism,” is ludicrous in its attempt to link the Roman Catholic Church with human rights. One basic human right is the right to follow your own religion. The first people in Europe to try this on a large scale were the Cathars (gnostics) of Southern France in the Middle Ages.

Their attempt to break free of the church’s autocratic control of thought and speech was brutally extinguished, even by the standards of the age, when the pope declared a crusade against them in 1208. Thousands and thousands of people were slaughtered or burned as heretics.

It was in fact the struggle against the church in the 16th century that furthered the cause of human rights, a concept reinforced by the 18th-century Enlightenment, which opposed, among other things, the idiotic but dangerous idea of papal infallibility and the “Holy” Inquisition.

Anyone accused of being a heretic had only two courses of action: confess and be strangled before being burned, or not confess and be burned alive. It is incredible that the Spanish Inquisition was only abolished in 1820. Thousands of harmless people too — who were fortunetellers, herbalists, healers, seers, anyone with any kind of psychic gift — were ruthlessly eliminated by the Roman Catholic Church.

Those who see the church as some kind of benign influence should ponder the fact that practically all of the top Nazis — Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Streicher, Goering, Eichmann — had been brought up in a Catholic household. Ribbentrop was the sole exception. It is very likely that the ancient church-inculcated syndrome of sin, confess, be forgiven then go do it again led to a weak sense of personal responsibility.

Dipak Basu’s May 2 letter, “Signs of ‘Christian’ influence,” supposedly a retort to Clark, does not get to grips with the issue and is only a platform for Basu’s tediously recurrent, touchingly naive and factually inaccurate postcolonial obsessions and will be dealt with in a later letter.

barry andrew ward

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.