Sorry, dead people

The fashion for apologising for things that happened many centuries ago has now hit the Vatican, which is about to publish a book saying it might have made a bit of a mistake, according to the Times and Telegraph .*

According to the Telegraph,

In 1307, King Philip IV “the Fair” of France, in desperate need of funds, ordered the arrest and torture of all Templars. After confessing various sins their leader, Jacques de Molay, was burnt at the stake.

And the Church quickly declared them all heretics. The new -found paper supposedly shows that pope Clement dissolved the Templar Order but said they weren’t heretics. Though the evidence for their non-heresy seems quite unconvincing, by the standards of the day, considering how little it took for a hedge-witch or a dissenting peasant to get tortured and killed for heresy (by both Catholics and Protestants) over the next few hundred years. It is tempting to suggest that the surviving Templars must have still had a fair bit of that Holy land wealth left with which to buy a relatively favourable judgement.

Now, 1307 is 700 years ago. The Vatican could teach any existing government a thing or two about keeping politically sensitive secrets.

What is the point in this? Given that the Templars were monk-knights, they shouldn’t even have any direct descendants who could accept an apology for wrongs done to their 175th generation-back ancestors. It’s obviously a soundbite thing. The Templars’ much-vaunted “secrets” have been attracting publicity again, in the silly da Vinci Code movie for a start.

Just in case, some people might be put off the Catholic Church because it did wrong in the 14th century, it’s going to apologise and set the record straight. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s not like they are going to make France hand back any of Phillip the Fair’s ill-gotten gains is it?

Much as I hate these ritual apologies to people who don’t exist any more, on behalf of the people who wronged them, but also don’t exist any more, why stop there? Why not apologise for the Crusades and the things the Catholic Church rewarded the Templars for doing? It wouldn’t make any more sense but at least it would show the beginnings of a sense of moral responsibility.

* (Look I don’t read these papers in real life. Honest. But, they are online….)