Welcome to Maoist Orange Cake. Each week one of our Divas posts a thoughtful (but not necessarily serious) essay on whatever calls forth her Voice or strikes her Fancy. We invite you to join us wherever the discussion leads.
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"I would also like to add that ‘Maoist Orange Cake is possibly the best name for a blog ever. Just my twopence." -- The Sixth Carnival of Radical Feminists, 1 October 2007

The Twelfth Carnival of Radical Feminists is up at The Burning Times blog and mentions one of our posts, Helen 'Wheels' Keller, for recommendation. Orangeists spreading our zest!

Monday, May 14, 2007


I've watched the first two episodes of the current PBS series "Secret Files of the Inquisition". It describes itself as "Based on previously unreleased secret documents from European Archives including the Vatican, Secret Files of the Inquisition unveils the incredible true story of the Catholic Church's 500-year struggle to remain the world's only true Christian religion." Since Christian (as well as Jewish) religious history is an area where I've done a great deal of reading and thinking, I was looking forward to a new examination of this incredibly horrific half-millenium of human depravity committed in the name of g*d.

Although this series is generating positive reviews and the writer/producer has a solid, apparently apolitical background of investigative documentary work behind him, I still found the series so far to be less critical than I would have hoped. Even the introduction, which reminds us that the late Pope John Paul II apologised for the Inquisition in 2002, stating the Catholic Church should show penitence for "accepting methods of intolerance or even violence in the service of truth", seems to be watered down later in the excusatory tone of remarks of Rev Joseph Di Noia. Di Noia is the Under-secretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, successor body to the Inquisition and, until last year, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. It is considered "controversial" that the Church allowed Di Noia to even appear in the documentary. Even more "radical", apparently, is his comment "It was a mistake to torture people. However, torture was regarded as a perfectly justified, legitimate way of producing evidence and it was therefore legally justified."

Since when it is radical to admit that torture is wrong? And why do we need more arguments that the people who do it believe they are justified?

I also found a couple of the other historians whose comments are featured heavily in the analysis to be appeasatory or a little too enamored of their own viewpoint. Stephen Haliczer of Northwestern Illinois University is clearly in love with the papacy and its trappings, and has created a Vatican board game where you, too, can advance from Cardinal to Pope (!) Another frequent commenter, Charmaine Craig, is a writer of historical fiction, and the novel from which she quotes is never revealed in the documentary to be a work of fiction rather than scholarly research. A list of the top Inquisition researcher and writers currently in the world today does not hold the names of any of this documentary's commentators, which to me reeks of cherry-picking.

The episode on the Cathars of Langeudoc fails to ever mention Knights of Templar or, even more troubling, the fact that the chief "heresy" of Cathars was the fact that they did not believe Christ to have been an incarnation of God. This rejection of the Incarnation is the most persistent controversy of Christian history -- it demarcates those Christians who, from the outset, rejected Christ's divinity from those who have used all means possible to force the Church to accept this dogma. Its omittance from the documentary is telling.

There is (as yet) no mention of the mass burnings for witchcraft, which was in fact a genocidal attempt to eliminate the heresy of pre-Christian European religions and strong women in general, not technically a part of the Inquisition's focus (which was to eliminate the heresy of Jews and Muslims as well as Christians who believed a different version of Christianity, let's be honest here) -- but still, it was part of the public discourse and a means of terror employed by the same Dominicans conducting the Inquisition. Yet, not a mention.

And, most upsetting to me, was one so-called scholar's assertion that the persecution of conversos in Spain was not aimed at Jews, only at "Christians" who had, of course, been forced to pretend to be Christians under pain of death. To argue in any regard that the Inquisition was not rooted in anti-Semitism is an outright lie. The expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal, the Second Diaspora, is a key component in Jewish history and led to some of the greatest cultural transformation and theology in Judaism (i.e., Tikkun Olam), as well as setting the stage for the new forms of anti-Semitism that would result in the Holocaust.

Short shrift is also given to the fact that the principles of the Inquisition are the bedrock upon which conquest of the New World was undertaken -- forcible conversion or genocidal asssault on two entire continents. This gets one line in the documentary, yet Columbus was a direct product of the Inquisition. I was outraged by that point.

The project smells to me of Catholic apologia, possibly in reaction to the venomous anti-Catholic attacks currently by the evangelical fascists in our country, possibly to obscure the Holy Roman Church's direct role in anti-Muslim policies still in effect today, or possibly just more of the same from Pope Benedict, a Brown-Shirt boy at heart. I don't plan to watch the final two episodes. We need better thinking on this subject to break out of the evil being perpetuated by religious fundamentalists today. We need a lot more than pseudo-accountability, which apologizes without self-examination and uses gaps in memory or documentation to avoid responsibility. I'll stick with the Monty Python version for now: "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

Monty Python Spanish Inquisition


liza said...

I missed it. But I'm not surprised by your critique. They probably were terrified to do more.

I checked out some blog responses to the show and the xtians are pissed off. You can go to Technorati.com and check it out. I typed in PBS Inquisition and got a whole lot of rather frighteneing xtian blogs.

And yes, Maoist Orange cake was right there with them.


shadocat said...

Yes, I couldn't believe that PBS would show such a "slap on the hand" documentary.

And doncha just love it when words like "mistakes were made" supposedly constitutes an apology? I was raised to believe that eating a cheeseburger on a Friday night was a mortal sin, which, if left unconfessed, could damn me to hell for all eternity. But to torture and kill people to get at their property, make Jews choose between a horrible death and their faith, and so on, is just a "mistake"?(According to the Vatican, that is)Considering I am descended from people who were forced to convert, I really find this offensive.

What's wrong with just saying the Catholic Church was wrong??? But what can you expect from an organization that puts "Ratzi the Nazi" (my mom's name for him)in charge?

Maggie Jochild said...

Falwell is dead. My sincere condolences to those who loved him.

As a member of several groups targeted by him and his organization as not worthy of human rights, respect, g*d's love or continued existence on this planet, I am well aware of the damage done by his organized hate. Damage done not just to me, or other individuals, but to the very fabric of this country and, by extension, our unwarranted influence around the world. I am glad he has been stopped. But I do not, did not wish him dead. And I earnestly hope no one here will expressed their delight in his death.

Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, the loss of corporeal existence here on this plane is a finite end. Those who love you can no longer delight in your arrival, in the light of your eyes, the inflection of your voice, the particular memory that is yours. It is such a terrible and baffling cessation that explaining it has been the bulwark of religion. Comprehending death becomes the dividing line between childhood and adulthood. Murder is a sin against divinity in every religion of the world, because death is absolute. I absolutely believe we have no right to visit it upon another, and, even more, to even wish it upon another.

In mid October, my father died. In most respects as a human being, he was a failure. He failed most spectacularly as a father and a husband to my mother. His limitations, and his adamant refusal to see them or grow beyond them, are what eviscerated my family. I cared for him (he was, for the most part, an easy-going demon) and perhaps I loved him, if you stretch the meaning of the word. For the last decade of his life, I crossed over to him where he slowly rotted away in his own stagnation. I treated him with a respect he did not extend to me. I kept contact with him, and listened to him. And while I did not live in hope that he would take hold of a rope and save himself (because to live in that hope is codependency), I did not give up the hope, either. I had a great deal of help in walking this tightrope, and I am eternally grateful that I did. It is part of why I am alive, and he is not.

For the last five years, he chose to ally himself, live with my oldest brother, the man who abused and tortured me and my little brother in every way imaginable when we were children. The man who is indirectly and directly responsible for the early death of my little brother at age 42. An unrepentant monster. This man, too, I tried to stay in contact with, once I went through enough therapy to name what he had done (and honey, when I name names, I do it nationally), create a movement against his kind of disease, and find peace in myself as a result. I listened to him enough to find out what happened to him to create his pathology, which has been a useful thing to know. I offered him forgiveness, which he could not accept because it would also mean admitting what he had done. He died in February, in a fairly horrible way, still snared in his lies and terror.

I did feel relief at his death -- both their deaths, actually. Relief because it seemed abundantly clear they were never going to be able to step outside of the paths they had chosen, and their misery was abject. Relief because it was a spiritual burden to keep facing their presence in my life, to not give in to anger and hate.

But I recognize that relief, also, as hopelessness. Any belief I have that someone is beyond growth and redemption is hopelessness, and I deserve better than that. I NEED better than that.

I am the only one left, now, in my family of origin. I am the kind of alone people tend to be at the ends of their lives, not at age 52. But I am still growing, still changing. I have hope.

The only time people willingly face death is when they have run out of hope in some form. Life is always preferable, if it is a good life. We are born to love, to grow, to live in community and kindness. That is universally true. If you define those things as knowing and loving g*d, then we are born to love g*d. It is available to us every instant we are alive. So -- I glory in no one's death. It is the same as glorying in my own.

Instead, I'll take the next step. Because I am still here, and love demands it of me.

shadocat said...

I read somewhere that both Falwell's father and grandfather were atheists, although his mother was descibed as a "devout Christian". Makes for an interesting family dynamic , doesn't it?

I wish I could be as charitable as you, Maggie; I certainly did not wish the man dead, but I'm not too upset about it either. The man lived a life of a reasonable length. He made a lot of money, I believe. at the expense of others. He was able to attain great influence, which he used, (IMO) to benefit himself. If people like you and I are right about God's "message" regarding our purpose on this earth, and Falwell was wrong---well, he has some serious 'splainin' to do about right now...

shadocat said...

After reading all the vitriol that has been published in various places regarding Falwell's death. I feel I need to clarify my positon. I didn't the things the man said, or what he stood for. But I took no pleasure in his death, and I don't understand those who do.

I know I called Carl Rove the devil, but I don't wish him death either. I would like it, however, if he spent a bit of time in jail, paying for his crimes. Then when he's done, he can come out and be a minister, or a bus driver or a tennis pro for all I care.

I don't know who said this originally, and I may be misquating, but I believe in this little saying; "If I rejoice in the death of another person, it diminishes my own life."

Jana C.H. said...

Maybe after his time in jail, Karl Rove could start a career as a rap singer.

Jana C.H.
Saith Floss Forbes: If you don't know the tune, sing tenor.

Jana C.H. said...

For a unique take on M.C. Rove (and a unique form of editorial cartoon), go to


and look under April 2007 for “MC Rove & GWB43” But don’t hit it if you’re at work. This has sound.


Maggie Jochild said...

From the Writer's Almanac for May 30, 2007:

It was on this day in 1431 that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France. She revitalized the French Army by claiming she was on a mission from God, but she was captured by the English and tried for heresy.

Her trial lasted for months. Every day she was brought into the interrogation room, where she was the only woman among judges, priests, soldiers, and guards. The judges hoped to trick her into saying something that would incriminate her as a witch or an idolater, so they asked endless questions about all aspects of her life, in no particular order. They were especially interested in her childhood, and because the transcripts of the trial were recorded, we now know more about her early life than any other common person of her time.

After months of questioning, she was told that if she didn't sign a confession, she would be put to death. She finally signed it, but a few days later she renounced the confession, and on this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake. She was 19 years old.

It was on this day in 2002 that city workers held a wordless ceremony marking the end of the recovery and cleanup at Ground Zero in New York City.

The cleanup crew had consisted of more than 7000 firefighters, policemen, construction workers, and volunteers. The site covered 17 acres and rose 150 feet above the street. Some of the steel columns pulled from the piles glowed red. The workers eventually removed 1 1/2 million tons of debris in more than 100,000 truckloads.

The ceremony on this day in 2002 took place at 10:29 a.m., the precise time at which the second of the twin towers collapsed. A New York City firefighter struck a bell 20 times, the traditional ceremony for a fallen firefighter. The New York City Fire Department had lost 343 firefighters on September 11th.

A group of firefighters and police officers played bagpipes and drums as a flatbed truck carried away the last steel beam to be removed from the site. Many of the workers had written their names on the beam. Most of the 200,000 tons of steel recovered from the site were cut down into three-foot sections and sold primarily to Asian scrap metal companies, to be recycled for use in cars and appliances and all manner of ordinary objects and machines.

It's the birthday of filmmaker Howard Hawks, born in Goshen, Indiana (1896). He's best known for directing Westerns such as Red River (1948) and Rio Bravo (1959), but he also made the science fiction movie The Thing (1951), the gangster movie Scarface (1932), the screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940), and the detective movie The Big Sleep (1946).

He almost always shot scenes at eye level, because, he said, "That's the way a man (sic) sees it." He never used camera tricks and he rarely even moved the camera. When asked about his style as a filmmaker, he said, "I just aim ... at the actors."