Inquisition Documents

The Vatican will open its archives to Italian state officials and academics for a computer-driven project to catalogue all available documents on the Inquisition in Italy.

"Such a vast operation, never before undertaken, is of great importance to respond to new directions of international research on the control of religious ideas in medieval and modern Europe," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

Under an agreement signed Tuesday, archivists will survey documentation held by the Vatican, the Italian government, Italian libraries and private collectors.

The Inquisition was begun by Pope Innocent III at the end of the 12th century in response to the alleged heresies of the Cathars, or Albigensians, and the Waldensians. It spread throughout Europe and led to the expulsion of Jews and Moors from Spain.

Torture was permitted to secure proof of heresy, and if accused heretics did not repent, officials of the Inquisition could turn them over to civil authorities for execution by hanging or burning at the stake. In 1542, Pope Paul II established the Roman Inquisition, a supreme inquisitorial tribunal that was aimed at combating Lutheranism and Calvinism and that later was concerned with witchcraft.

-- Religion News Service

Episcopal-Pagan Uproar

A husband and wife who are Episcopal priests in Pennsylvania have apologized for and recanted their embrace of pagan worship. The husband resigned his pulpit, but his wife expects to keep her job.

The Rev. William Melnyk, known in pagan circles as "OakWyse," resigned as rector of St. James' Church in Downingtown, Pa., after begging "for the mercy of the church and of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Jeffrey Brodeur, spokesman for Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. of Philadelphia, said the resignation was a "mutual decision" between Melnyk and parish leaders and was accepted Nov. 6. In a letter to Bennison, Melnyk also said he was resigning as a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.

"I was wrong," Melnyk wrote to Bennison on Nov. 4. "I repent and recant without qualification anything and everything I may have said or done which is found to be in conflict with the Baptismal Covenant, and the historical Creeds of the Church."

Melnyk's letter was publicized by the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a Washington-based conservative think tank that criticized the couple for their ties to paganism. Brodeur verified the letter's accuracy.

His wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, known in pagan circles as "Raven," issued a similar apology and will continue serving as pastor of St. Francis-in-the-Fields Church in Malvern, Pa. Bennison had issued a "pastoral direction" against her, which is similar to a "cease and desist" order.

Melnyk said he had hoped to help lapsed Christians reconnect with the church, pointing to the shared roots between druid and Celtic religions and the "British heritage" found in the Anglican tradition, of which the Episcopal Church is part. He said he realizes his error.

-- Religion News Service

U.S.-British Differences

Great Britain and the United States might be political allies, but they appear to be more than an ocean apart when it comes to religion and values.

Sharp differences in religious practice and views on hot-button social issues were revealed in a survey commissioned by the Times of London and published Wednesday. The survey sampled 1,504 British adults and was compared with results of a national exit poll conducted Nov. 2, Election Day, in the United States on behalf of major media outlets. The surveys found that:

* 58 percent of Bush voters and 41 percent of Kerry voters said they go to church weekly; only 10 percent of British voters said they do.

* 69 percent of those voting for Bush thought there should be no legal recognition of same-sex couples. That attitude was shared by only 29 per cent of British voters, about the same proportion as those voting for Kerry (30 percent).

A separate survey released Wednesday by the Times found that the British consider the local pub a far more important focus of the community than the local church. Asked what one place in a community contributed most to social interaction and interpersonal skills, 58 percent nominated the pub, 14 percent the church.

-- Religion News Service