Friday, October 12, 2007

Apologia for the Templars' Dissolution (Without the Apology)

According to Reuters, the official papal transcripts of the Templars' trial will soon be released. They were recently "discovered" in the Vatican's Secret Archive in 2001 due to a misfiling of the documents. Don't rush to your local bookstore quite yet though, only 799 copies will be produced, priced at a hefty $8,333 a pop (roughly).
The Vatican expects most copies of the work to be bought up by specialized libraries at top universities and by leading medieval scholars.
I don't know which "leading medieval scholars" can afford that price. Maybe Reuters knows some people I don't. Pope Benedict will be given the 1st copy, but I assume he won't have to pay for it.

Anyway, this will certainly be a boon to scholars who study anything related to the Templars or their trial but there's something else really interesting going on here. The Reuters headline says the Templars have now "won a reprieve." No, not really. Apparently, they were never found guilty of heresy in the first place. The Chinon parchment
contains phrases in which Pope Clement V absolves the Templars of charges of heresy, which had been the backbone of King Philip's attempts to eliminate them.... Clement was convinced that while the Templars had committed some grave sins, they were not heretics.
Think about that for a minute. This document "absolves" the papacy of any direct involvement in the Templars' suppression. The document absolves the papacy from abusing its spiritual power and instead portrays the struggle over the Templars' suppression as nothing more than political, with Philip IV "the Fair" vs. the Templars (and the papacy). The papacy are now on the "good guys'" side. Stunning.

Now, far be it for me to suggest that something fishy might be going on but it is, I think, weird that all this is coming out now. Weird that it fits so well in the context of another recent Vatican-sponsored conference on the crusades that also sought to exonerate the papacy (and Christians more generally) from culpability for their actions -- saying, in effect, well, the Muslims were much worse...