The task of the Inquisition is to determine the truth of allegations of hypocrisy of the member of a voluntary association. The target is the hypocritical member who outwardly supports the goals of the association, but refuses intellectual assent to them.
The National Basketball Association is ostensibly a multi-racial, even multi-national, association of peers. Any member of the association, though outwardly conforming to the standard of racial equality would be a hypocrite if he intellectually assented to racial inequality.
In April of 2014, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, was accused of intellectual assent to racial superiority, through the release of recorded phone conversations between himself and one of his mistresses. The NBA immediately announced the initiation of an Inquisition into Sterling’s alleged hypocrisy. Sterling admitted to the Inquisition that it was his voice on the audio recordings. In a few days the penalty imposed by the Inquisition was announced: a life time ban from all NBA activities.
The TV news commentators were nearly unanimous in condemning Sterling’s racism and demanded his expulsion from the ownership of an NBA franchise. No one supported what Sterling said. One commentator did argue that one should not be held responsible for anything he might say in private to his mistress. In the finding of guilt of hypocrisy by the Inquisition, it was determined that racism is at least implicitly a violation of the tenets of the association.
An interesting aspect of the case is that, in finding Sterling guilty of hypocrisy as charged, he was nevertheless very successful at it. The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP was scheduled to honor him with a lifetime achievement award in May. Some have suggested that Sterling’s views on race were well known, just not publicized. One commentator noted, with respect to the NAACP award, that money covers a multitude of sins.
A not untypical aspect of the Inquisition was that it likely was motivated by an unrelated bone contended by two adversaries. In this case, Sterling’s wife and one of his mistresses were contending over money in a civil suit. The mistress apparently released the recordings, which instigated the Inquisition, so that it might be used as an extraneous club with which to beat her adversary.
One classical example of using the Inquisition into Hypocrisy as an extraneous club with which to beat and even kill one’s enemies is that of St. Joan of Arc almost six hundred years ago.
Some feudal lords in the north of what we now call France, under the leadership of the Plantagenet, who held a lordship in England, were at war with lords from the south, under the leadership of the son of the dead Armagnac King of France. Joan was a teenager who lived in Lorraine.
At the urging of heavenly voices she was prompted to go into France and offer her military leadership to the Armagnac prince to lead him to coronation in Rheims Cathedral. She did so successfully, but was later captured by the Plantagenet side. Her enemies so hated her they desired to kill her. They could not execute her as a prisoner of war. They decided to use the Inquisition into Hypocrisy as a tool, extraneous to the war, to kill her.
Everything was stacked against Joan. The court of Inquisition was formed by her enemies, learned in the law, which they were to use as a weapon. Joan was an illiterate teenager of eighteen years. The court still felt over-matched, so it violated its own rules by denying counsel to Joan.
It then posed a loaded question. A Yes, would condemn Joan as blasphemously presumptuous. Joan would have her hypocrisy exposed. Overtly she was Catholic but covertly she would be exposed to hold the belief that she had natural knowledge and natural certitude of supernatural grace. A No, would admit that she was in league with Satan and the Voices, which led her, were diabolic, all the while she maintained the hypocrisy of ostensible Catholicism.
The Inquisition posed the question, “Do you know if you are in the grace of God?”
Joan replied, “If I am not, may God place me there; if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest in all the world if I knew that I were not in the grace of God. But if I were in a state of sin, do you think the Voice would come to me? I would that everyone could hear the Voice as I hear it. I think I was about thirteen when it came to me for the first time.”
This answer was a temporary victory for Joan. In the end her enemies killed her. They tricked her into promising never to wear male clothing and then provided her in prison with nothing but male clothing. They pronounced her thereby relapsed and killed her.
Because grace is supernatural, we can have no degree of natural certitude in the matter of grace. St. Joan’s answer of her state of grace, or lack thereof, is cited as exemplifying the Catholic Faith (CCC 2005). Her feast day is May 30th. In addition to the St. Joan-center as a resource, Belloc’s short book, Joan of Arc is excellent as is the meditation of Pope Benedict XVI on St. Joan.