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Moments in Time The real inquisitor

By Gary Macy

Many readers will remember the horrible villain from the movie “The Name of the Rose,” the inquisitor, Bernardo Gui. A recent study of the real Bernardo Gui has tallied up all 633 sentences he imposed between 1308 and 1323. During that time, 136 people were ordered to wear crosses on their clothes at all times (most of these sentences later were commuted), 307 people were imprisoned for life (again, over half of these sentences were commuted) and 41 were handed over to be executed by the state. Other sentences included performing pilgrimages and going on crusade. Of those executed, 30 were Cathars (members of a Christian sect), seven were Waldensians (members of another sect) and four were Beguines (members of a lay sisterhood). Not a single witch was burned by Bernardo, despite Hollywood’s claim. Now, one could hardly claim that Bernardo was a nice guy, and the Inquisition was more disruptive of life in southern France than these quick statistics would indicate. Yet with over 500 executions in the United States since 1990, and 3,670 people on death row, one sometimes wonders which period is more deserving of the epithet “The Dark Ages.”

Gary Macy is a theology professor at the University of San Diego. His e-mail address is macy@pwa.acusd.edu

National Catholic Reporter, August 25, 2000