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Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis*…

The College of Cardinals heads into session today, the latest installment in the oldest continuous democratic process in the world.  As we watch for white smoke, Lapham’s Quarterly reminds us of just how momentous the results of the balloting can be.

In 1484, just three months into his pontificate, Innocent VIII issued a papal bull, naming two professors as his primary inquisitors.  Heinrich Kramer, a professor of theology at the University of Salzburg,  and Jacobus Sprenger, a dean of the University of Cologne, had written the new Pope complaining that their local ecclesiastical authorities were not assisting them in stamping out witchcraft.  Innocent VIII put them in charge– and the prosecutions began.

Two years later, the two Dominican inquisitors published the (in)famous Malleus Maleficarum (“Hammer of the Witches”) the book proclaiming that disbelief in witches was heresy and prescribing torture to procure confessions from the accused, that became (if readers will forgive the pun) the Bible of the Inquisition.

Read Innocent VIII”s full Papal Bull here.

And on a related note, lest we worry that the new Pope, whoever he might be, will need to scramble to find appropriate attire for that all-important first audience, the Pope’s tailors have him covered.

* “Inquiry on Heretical Perversity


As we admit that Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition, we might recall that it was on this date in 1912 that The Girl Scouts were born in the U.S., as Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low (who’d met and been deeply influenced by Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell in London) organized the first Girl Scout troop meeting of 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia.  The annual sale of cookies as a fund-raiser began in 1917.

Ms. Low, flanked by two Scouts

[Goya’s The Inquisition Tribunal sourced here; the title page of the seventh Cologne edition of the Malleus Maleficarum, here; girl scout photo, here]

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