The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


The Modern Inquisition: Seven Prominent Catholics and their Struggles
with the Vatican.
The Overlook Press, 2000. By the Australian and former priest Paul Collins.

Paul Collins' "Author's Note" is available online at

See also The Baha'i Cadre System

Shoot the Messenger, Character Assassination, ETC

Given Shoghi Effendi's patterning the Baha'i organization on the Catholic Church,
I highly recommend people interested in understanding the Baha'i Wars,
FROM ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE, read this entire book. Copies are available
through online booksellers.


"It is worth noting that there is no presumption of innocence as
there is in the common law and in most civilised legal traditions.
Here the old canonical view that 'error has no rights' clearly prevails.
It is also important to spell out precisely what happens here: a group
of anonymous bureaucrats, none of whom, except Ratzinger, has
any demonstrated expertise in theology or ministry, let alone any
established reputations as serious theologians, are 'evaluating the
gravity of the question'. They often decide whether a professional
theologian with established publications and a well-deserved
reputation, or a person with a long track record in their particular
ministry, should have their work submitted for judgement by an
equally anonymous consultor who is also demonstably a person
of very limited theological and miisterial vision or competence" (37).

"From then on, all dialogue passes through the accused person's
superior, conducted completely in writing. It is meant to be kept
strictly secret on the grounds that this protects the accused person's
reputation. In fact, it renders them more vulnerable. As I argue in my
own story, the safest procedure is to 'go public' fairly quickly so that
the CDF has to think seriously about its own reputation and public
image before it acts or uses arbitrary measures" (39).

"First, there is no precise definition of the offence. Second, the
*Regulations* do not distinghish at all between judge, prosecutor and
investigator. The CDF carries out all roles and often the same person acts
int he various roles. Third, the accused is given little opportunity to
plead his or her case. Fourth, there is no presumption of innocence. Fifth,
there is no right of appeal. And, finally, the secrecy provisions mean that
justice is not seen to be done, especially when the penalty is automatic
excommunication. 'To rush into imposing an extreme sentence (perhaps even
without ever having listend to the author) can hardly be a sign and symbol
of justice' " (43).

"It [CDF] is a creature of the counter-reformation and has
no place in the contemporary Church. It has proved on
several occasions to be essentially irreformable. Nowadays
it is . . . a manifestation of an exaggerated and over-centralised
papalism. Its present personnel demonstrably have little or
no pastoral experience nor, with the exception of the
cardinal prefect, do they have well-established reputations
as theologians. No doubt its personnel are well-intentioned
but their veiw of the wider Church is not just ignorant, it
is blinkered and myopic. As a result it is difficult to see
what positive contribution the CDF makes to the
contemporary Church" (44).

"Yet Rome [uhj] seems obsessed with control. In a
personal letter reflecting his own experience of the Holy
Office, the great French Dominican ecclesiologist Cardinal
Yves Congar (1904-95) says that the Vatican wants the
whole Christian world 'to think nothing, to say nothing,
except what they propose'. He continues: 'It is clear to me
that Rome has never looked for and even now does not
look for anything but the affirmation of its own authority.
Everything else interest it only as a mtter for the exercise
of this authority ... the whole history of Rome is about
insisting on its own authority and the destruction of
everything that cannot be reduced to submission.' " (44).

Charles Curran:

"Finally on 17 September 1985 Ratzinger wrote 'concluding the
inquiry' and asking for a reply, saying that 'one who holds such
positions cannot be called a Catholic theologian'. Right through
the whole affair the core issue was that of dissent. In my very
first response to them I focused on dissent, and simply did not
respond to specifics about sexuality. Fundamentally, I argued
that responsible dissent from the non-infallible magisterium
is legitimate. Basically, the CDF has responded that there can
be no dissent from the non-infallible magisterium. But the
problem is that they never argue their position; they simply
state it. They never engage in any form of dialogue" (68-69).

Tissa Balasuriya:

"It strikes me that there is widespread fear among
Catholics when they deal with theology and institutions
such as the CDF. As a result, almost allof the
structures of the Church become inoperative. At all
levels--diocesan, national and even the international
level--everyone becomes stymied. There is a sort of
'holy fear', a kind of religious reign of terror, with
threats ofhiell, excommunication and exclusion. These
psychological weapons are used to frighten people,
as the threat of torture was in the past by the
Inquisition. That is why it is important to emphasise
that wheer there is love, there is no fear. If we do not
become a community of love and acceptance, people
will just bypass the Church" (107).

Tissa Balasuriya:

"At the heart of all this is the question of conscience. We cannot
accept arbitrary authority, and there comes a point when we must
say that eternal destiny is not determined by particular persons,
or what is called 'orthodoxy', but by one's conscience and by our
relationship to the divine. In India and Sri Lanka there is a tradition
of spiritual resistance to dominant establishments. This comes
originally from the Buddha and is exemplified by Gandhi and
others. As a result, people in this culture support you if you are
poor and manifest an understanding of the divine as universal,
beneficent and compassionate" (108).

Jeannine Gramick and Robert Nugent

"As I look back over the whole affair, I feel that Church
authorities follow rigid and totalitarian procedures. While
I knew that in theory before, I now know it experientially.
I guess it has made me more convinced than ever that we
need governmental changes in our Church. In 1989, when
we saw the totalitarian structures in Eastern Europe
crumbling, we facetiously said that the Church is really
the last bastion of totalitarianism, and I think it is true. We
need to work harder to have processes in our Church that
are more mutual, collaborative, open and respectful of
due process" (156).

Jeannine Gramick and Robert Nugent

"But the administrators of the Bishop of Rome should be just that:
administrators. The problem is that they assume authority and
hierarchical power that they should not have. I have to admit that
in the US the future of Church reform looks bleak. For reform to
happen you need two things: reform-minded people who are in
authority, like the bishops, and a willingness to work for reform
at the grass-roots. On both counts, I see grave deficiences" (157).


"The things that hurt me most in this war of nerves and attrition
between the CDF and myself was first, that they did not know me;
second, that they did not know my work; and third, that they
thought it a good idea to ask me to sign up to two discrete bits of
Catholic teaching, taking no account of my assent to the rest of
the Church's teaching. You trivialise people's religious experience
by demanding to know, 'Do you believe this or that particular
teaching?' " (180).

LAVINIA BYRNE A nun for over 30 years, a particularly
poignant story. See her website at

"I wonder if we do not need a kind of 'post-Vatican' Church, one
in which the way the Church is administered actually moves it into
the twenty-first century, something much fleeter of foot, much
more transparent, much more accountable. We need a Church
structure which is missionary, zealous and apostolic. This would
require a complete overhaul of what I see as the 'Whitehall' of the
Church" (186).

Hans Kung

"I was enough of a Roman among Romans to know that you cannot
win by debating the substantial theological issues with the CDF. They
are always right, and there is no other possibility. It is just like dealing
with the Kremlin: what they ultimately want is for you to say exactly
what they say.... Occasionally, you won a point with them, but they
were always adamant that I would not be alllowed to see my file,
was not permitted to know who would defend me, and was given
no right of apppeal" (201).

Hans Kung

"In retrospect, I can see a pattern ion my life that I did not
plan.... I was now free to move from Christianity, Christian
existence and the Church, to the world at large: to world
religions, world literature and finally to the notion of a
global ethic. It seems to me that this is an example of divine
providence--God's plan emerges from our human confusion.
I felt an invisible hand in my life guiding me.... Looking back,
things seem to have worked out perfectly.... But what I see
as the central challenge for Catholicism is a radical
reform of the structure of the Catholic Church" (205).

Hans Kung

"i do not believe that the maintenance of a medieval dictatorship
has any future.... All this demonstrates that the influence of the
pope is increasingly limited: he can constantly travel the world
and lecture Catholics through sermons and encyclicals, but he
has not been able to change their views on a single controversial
issue, neither on birth control, nor abortion, nor euthanasia,
nor even on ecumenism. So now the Roman Curia tries to exercise
control through manipulation: for example, the appointment of
reactionary bishops, demanding special licenses to teach theology,
the marginalisation of those (including bishops) of whom the
Curia disapproves, and above all through the use of the Inquisition.
In the end none of it has worked, nor will it work....
I have remained in the great Catholic tradition of two thousand
years. I know that I am defending that great tradition, not a
medieval paradigm which did not emerge until the eleventh century.
Ultimately, I feel rooted in the Gospel itself. If anyone can show
that my position is opposed to the Gospel, then I would say
immediately, 'I am ready to correct myhself.' But I am not ready
ready to correct myself when I have scripture behind me and
only the CDF against me" (206-207).

Paul Collins

"My book [Papal Power] is blunt: 'The Holy Office may have
changed its name but the ideology underpinning it has survived.
It has certainly not changed its methods. It still accepts
annonymous accusations, hardly ever deals directly with the
person accused, demands retractions and imposes silences,
and continues to employ third-rate theologians as its assessors.
This body has no place in the contemporary Church. It is
irreformable and should be abolished" (214).

"What is important for the whole Church now is the urgent task
of either the radical reform of the CDF, or its complete abolition.
My own view is that history shows that reform has proved
impossible on several previous occasions when it has been tried.
Therefore, the Church's only recourse is abolition.... Whatever
the demands of the Counter-Reformation may have been, the
new millennium calls for a whole new approach: one that is
open, transparent and in accord with human dignity and rights....
The transition we face is from inquisition to freedom." (244)