Aloysius the Border Leicester ram looked around the field at all fifty of his cute and fluffy satisfied conc-ewe-bines who were knee-deep in abundant but dry summer grass, and he baa-ed out loud at how wonderful his world was.
Then he decided to celebrate with a drink.
It was 96 degrees in the shade.
Firstly he snouted-down the float valve to send a burst of water bubbling through the trough so it would have extra froth on top.
He preferred it that way.
Their world was a single paddock which contained everything that the sheep thought they needed, and none of them ever felt an urge to look through the fence, or, Ovine God forbid, break through it and discover that Old McDonald had five acres of lush irrigated rye and clover growing on his farm just beyond the next ridge.
It is therefore no coincidence that the word ‘flock’ was adopted by religious organisations to describe their congregations of faithful adherents.
The ‘pastoral staff ‘, an object which is part of the Episcopal Vestments of Bishops in the Catholic Church is a replica of a shepherd’s crook, and is used as a symbol of power over the “flock”.
The Roman Catholic Church has historically needed to use much greater force than a pastoral staff to prevent it’s parishioners from venturing into the intellectual topography beyond it’s constrictive boundaries.
“Inquisitions” were committees of Little Theological Hitlers charged with the responsibility of rounding up the strays, and having them clonked on the head with a four by two plank of wood when other methods of convincing them to remain within the confines of the Catholic paddock failed.
1. The Papal Inquisition
Established in 1233 by Pope Gregory 9.
Erasmus the Tinker trotted around Italy on his horse in the year 1235 providing a unique service repairing leaking pots and pans with his patented sealant concocted from Vesuvian Spotted Toad spleens.
He was put to death by the Church after inadvisedly whispering to
Mrs Ciccione, the owner of an extremely holey frying pan who also happened to be an undercover informant to the tribunal, that the story of Adam and Eve “was a bloody great big load of unmitigated codswallop”.
Two Popes later in 1252, Pope Innocent 4, a gentle caring humanitarian and devoted earthly representative of God, authorised the use of torture by his Tribunals.
Gaius Apuleius Gaggio, a shy and sensitive used chariot salesman, (who also enjoyed an occasional cup of coffee) was suspected of having heretical tendences in 1253.
Additionally, there was a rather well worn track of evidence in the grass starting at the back door of his house, to suggest that he might have been servicing, after hours, some of the aforementioned Mrs Ciccione’s needs which were not always being attended to by Mr Ciccione, a merchant seaman.
He was tethered inside the apse of the church just behind the altar and rigorously interrogated for seven hours, but a full confession only came forth after his testicles had been connected to the terminals of a truck battery in the following sequence;
Right to +ve, left to -ve.
2. The Spanish Inquisition
In 1480 the Church endorsed King Ferdinand the 5th and Queen Isabella’s dubious idea of launching an Inquisition which, over a period of three centuries, executed 30,000 people for heresy, polygamy, seduction, smuggling, wearing your underpants inside out, and not cleaning the blue lint out of your belly button.
3. The Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition
It was a particularly bad day for Pope Paul 3 in 1542 for two reasons.
Firstly he had received an unusual item in the mail.
It was a bundle of pamphlets hot off somebody’s newly invented
They were invitations for all the Priests and Bishops to join the Roma Club de Spogliarello for ‘Steamy Friday nights of raunchy revelation.’
Shocked, appalled, and just a tiny bit aroused at the prospect of attending, he retired to the Sistine Chapel for meditation and guidance from God.
No sooner had he opened the door, than a trail of paint spatters led his eyes ever upwards to an intoxicated Father Pius, with his black cassock in disarray revealing all manner of atrocities, suspended beneath the ceiling on ropes, holding a paintbrush in one hand, having obviously spent a lot of time enlarging certain anatomical features on Michelangelo’s male nudes.
Upon being discovered, Pius swung himself back onto an upper parapet whilst attempting to sing a slurred rendition of the chorus of ‘Oh what a lovely bunch of coconuts’, in Latin.
The Pope immediately rushed off to the Apothecary, swallowed four aspirin and six valium, washed them all down with a bottle of mead, then declared an Inquisition to counter the dissemination of ‘subversive’ information from all the new-fangled printing machinery which threatened the Church’s domination and control.
The prospect of free expression and mass-produced literature for all people scared the Papal crap out of him.
This Inquisition remains in place today, although in 1965 at Vatican 2, it was renamed ‘Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith‘, and it no longer interferes in the lives of the laity.
The Catholic Church Administration today has a full-time job just trying to prevent it’s own clergy from widening the narrow 16th century tunnel of doctrine into something that might be vaguely appropriate and useful for the 21st century.
In the broader perspective of the universe, whatever happens in this field of human endeavour will most likely prove to be little more than a conceited and impertinent irrelevance.