This quote comes from an essay Cavanaugh wrote in the aftermath of a book about the torture of the Pinochet regime and the church’s eventual resistance to such practices. Questioners at lectures often asked him how a Catholic of all people could write a book against torture. And while the conventional narrative of the Inquisition is often distorted, it is true that torture figures into Christian history.
I buy into Cavanaugh’s notion of penance and corporate responsibility. I know that in our fiercely individualistic culture that’s a notion often rejected. But I accept it, because history and tradition are a huge part of what makes us into the individuals we are. So I take the idea of social penance seriously.
Which makes me wonder how the church should publicly react to actions carried out by those who claim to be Christians, but are clearly not Christian actions. Lump into this category the Norway killer, Fred Phelps, Scott Roeder, etc. How accountable should the church be for these kinds of actions/people? What form could such an accountability take?