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Diego Marani’s Blog for European Literature Night: Beware of the Pious

In the civilized West we are always quick to criticize societies where people are denied fundamental rights or persecuted for religious reasons. Sex discrimination, criminalisation of homosexuality, forced marriages, sexual mutilations are all practices we condemn, as well as all interferences of religion in the personal life of an individual. We all abhor the cruelty and inhumanity of the Sharia law and of similarly humiliating religious practices in countries far away from Europe that we consider uncivilised. We are often less vigilant when these things happen in our own country, in the heart of Europe. Perhaps we do not notice that since its foundation in Rome the Catholic Church tries to impose its vision of life on humanity as a whole and that even today’s very smart and communicative Pope has not changed one iota the Church’s stand on very important ethical issues that concern us all. Still today the Catholic Church condemns euthanasia, considers homosexuality a disease, forbids divorce, artificial insemination and abortion and does not miss an opportunity to try to convince our governments to pass laws that take into account its dogma. What would happen if Catholic rule was imposed on us? If the Catholic catechism became our constitution, as the Popes incessantly try to do since antiquity?
This is what I tried to imagine in my book God’s Dog. If one thinks about it, such a change is not so unlikely. It happened in a fortnight in Iran more than 30 years ago and the ayatollahs are still there, preaching their law, cutting hands to thieves and stoning adulterers. Domingo Salazar, the main character of my book is one of them, a fighter in the Catholic revolution that I imagine to take place in Rome in a near future. Salazar is a true believer and a very pious man. But he has his own ideas about what is good for the Church. And this will put him into trouble.
It has been very intriguing and fascinating for me to imagine the thoughts and convictions of a true Catholic who believes in each single line of the Catholic catechism, from the existence of angels and devils, to the legitimacy of death penalty in some cases. After all, Catholicism is a religion and is supposed to pursue the happiness and salvation of man. A true believer must in some way be a humanist and love all human beings, but how can he at the same time show ruthlessness for the sinner and love for mankind?
A very inspiring book that helped me to shape the mind of my character is The Inner Lives of Medieval Inquisitors by Karen Sullivan, published by University of Chicago Press. One might think that inquisitors were simply fanatics and torturers. They had on the contrary a more complex personality. Some kind of deviation took place in their soul, pushing them to incredible cruelty for the sake of what they believed was good. They did not act in an emotional or arbitrary way but scrupulously observing the rule, at least what they believed was the rule. This should push us even more to be vigilant and not underestimate the danger of a faith that pretends to save us, also against our will. The most sympathetic, pious and compassionate priest can hide a dark side in his soul and be ready to torture us for our good!

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