Cullen Murphy has an unusual talent for dealing in surprising ways with historical comparisons of past and present in lucid and lively prose. He writes intelligent history because he reads and understands current historical research and applies its results consistently…This is very high-end, appealing and thought-provoking popular history. It does its historical duty by making us look at several aspects of the past from an unconventional and surprising perspective. It does its public duty by making us consider our own world as the outcome, at least in some respects, of a process of modernization that needs to be understood and regarded more critically.
The Washington Post
Mr. Murphy wants to demonstrate how the mind-set and machinery of the Inquisition are inescapable products of the modern world that later surfaced in Stalin's Russia, Argentina's military junta and 21st-century America, where harsh interrogation tactics and unlimited detention were used at Guantánamo Bay…Mr. Murphy…is such a witty writer…offering a compact and breezy history of the Roman Catholic Church's bloody crusade with an incisive critique of America's post-9/11 security apparatus.
The New York Times
In 1998, the Vatican opened the Archivio della Congregazione per Dottrina della Fede, the Inquisition archive, thereby unveiling to the world the secrets of censorship and persecution that the Catholic Church had hidden since the Middle Ages. Journalist Murphy (The Word According to Eve) visits the archives several times and in his typically compelling style leads readers on a journey through the many inquisitions conducted by the Church over time, from the Spanish Inquisition to the Roman Inquisition of the 16th century. Murphy convincingly demonstrates that while the inquisitions most often are associated with the Church, they arise anytime an organization, state, or institution possesses and uses tools—such as censorship and torture—to stoke and manage suspicion, intolerance, and hatred of the other. Inquisitions require a system of law that can be administered with uniformity, the power to conduct interrogations and extract information, a bureaucracy with a large staff of individuals to administer it, a capacity to restrict the communications of others, and a source of power to ensure enforcement. Murphy powerfully shows that the impulse to inquisition can quietly take root in any system—civil or religious—that orders our lives. (Jan. 17)
"When virtue arms itselfbeware! Lucid, scholarly, elegantly told, God's Jury is as gripping as it is important." James Carroll
A roving Vanity Fair journalist takes a swaggering stab at the Inquisition. There were many Inquisitions--also lowercased--and inquiring author Murphy (Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America, 2007, etc.) traces the tentacles of the righteous persecution of "heretical depravity" up to the present, when the fallout from 9/11 especially reawakened the urge for surveillance, censorship, torture and a general "us versus them" mentality. The author first explores the three institutions that bore the name: the Medieval Inquisition, put into effect in 1231 by Pope Gregory IX in order to quash the heretical Cathars in southern France; the Spanish Inquisition, launched by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1478; and the Roman Inquisition, taken up with relish under Pope Paul III, in 1542, and intended to stop the dissemination of heretical thought and print. While the persecution of the Cathars lasted only a century and was completely successful ("Have you ever met a Cathar?"), the Spanish Inquisition perfected the art of torture under Tomás de Torquemada, culminating in the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain and the spread of global inquisition to the Americas. The Roman Inquisition had to stem the flood of Reformation ideas pouring out of the new printing presses, resulting in a massive buildup of archives that have only been opened to visiting scholars since 1998. The Holy Office would be the relentless persecutor of scientists and free thinkers, from Galileo to Graham Greene. Murphy visits the modern incarnation of the Vatican's inquisition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1981 onward, which decrees on matters of cloning, same-sex marriage, etc. Entertaining, lively chronicle of the Inquisition, touching on a wide variety of issues across the centuries.