So you're Pope Benedict's historian.

So you're Pope Benedict's historian.

R.E. Visionist, pleased to meet you.

And when the pope said the other day in Brazil that the Church had not imposed itself on the Latin American Indians, he got that from you?

Yup.

When you line them up with swords at their throats and tell them to convert or die, that's not imposing?

Well, they had a choice.

But what gave these guys with gunpowder and armor and horses the right to come to their land and give them choices?

The Indians were silently longing for conversion.

What? You mean the thousands who were slaughtered, the millions who died off or were starved or displaced or became victims of disease or torture or slavery?

As the pope said, they were purified.

Purified?

They were no longer godless savages.

Look, even Brazil's Indian Missionary Council said the pope ignored the fact that European gold-seekers and settlers enslaved Indians and forced them to convert.

Ungodly fanatics, the council.

They play on the same team as the Pope.

But they haven't seen my research. They're so negative, always looking to throw dirt. Just like with the so-called Inquisition.

So-called?

It never happened.

What about the Papal Inquisition? The persecution of Catharism and the Waldensians in the Middle Ages?

The Papal Inquisition invited people in for a frank exchange of views. Very collegial.

What about the Spanish Inquisition? I suppose they didn't torture heretics?

They asked them, like big brothers, to examine their beliefs. Inquisitors were there to aid Jews and Muslims who had earlier faked conversions and later felt a silent longing to convert for real.

What about the thumbscrews and the rack and the stake?

Completely misunderstood. The so-called rack was a massage table offered to the likes of Protestants and Greek Orthodox Christians as a show of good faith.

Yeah, well, it popped up in Peru and Mexico, too.

By then Inquisition Inc. was a free-trading import-export firm, they cornered the taco market.

So you deny the key role they played in fanning the hatreds that led to the religious wars of the 16th century and atrocities like the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre?

Oh please, that hoary myth?

Myth? Then what happened to the Huguenots of Paris?

Most of them gave up rabble-rousing and opened little cafes, charcuteries, boulangeries. They played the accordion. One invented the beret, another the madeleine.

Look, denying the past isn't just disrespectful, it's dangerous. I don't mean just the Catholics, there's plenty of blame to go around to other churches, other cultures. But denial just leads to more obscenities, like Apartheid.

Oh, that.

What?

It was never oppression. It was a legal framework for lifting black South Africans to economic and political equality.

What about the homelands?

Social clubs that provided recreation: canasta, mah jong, whiffleball.

This is too much! I suppose the Holocaust never happened either.

Of course not. Hey, people get hurt in wars. Some died, some moved away.

Where did the Jews go?

Just away. Honest Injun.

Speaking of which, I suppose the United States never had a policy of Manifest Destiny, and whites never advocated extermination?

Are you kidding? Look who wound up with all the reservations.

Like they wanted that?

Silent longing. It's a cultural thing. Like gambling resorts and those little dreamcatchers.

Well. It's been — interesting. Who's your next client?

Alberto Gonzales. He knew nothing, there was no plan, and Karl Rove and George W. Bush weren't in on it.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com.