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Saint. original name Domingo de Guzman. ?1170--1221, Spanish priest; founder of the Dominican order. Feast day: Aug. 7
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Saint Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominican Order. Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Pope Innocent III (c. 1160-1216) was one of the most powerful and certainly one of the wisest pontiffs ever to rule in Rome. Two monastic orders began under his direction. Although he was at first reluctant to grant his approval, the world is richer because he finally did. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226) and the Franciscans were the first (see Francis of Assisi). Dominic and the Order of Preachers—the Dominicans— were the second.

Dominic was twelve years older than Francis, but he began his work later. Those who followed him pursued his main objective of teaching, preaching, and study. Some great minds were trained under Dominican tutelage, including one of the greatest of all, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

The order spread throughout Europe and influenced the main centers of theological study in Paris and Oxford. Dominican professors in universities around the world have sparked high levels of theological training and insight.

Their success did not come without blemish, however. From the very beginning, Dominicans had launched movements to convert Jews and Muslims. Unfortunately, their methods don't stand up to the hindsight of history. Force of arms and intrigue were sometimes employed, rather than the use of pen and pulpit. Crusaders were used against Muslims in Tripoli and Jews in Spain.

On the other hand, when Spanish forces terribly abused and exploited American Indians from Santo Domingo and Peru, Dominicans such as Antonio Montesinos preached boldly against the crown and its policies. As a result, the influential writer Bartolome de Las Casas converted and became a Dominican. His books caused a great stir, exposing the economic system of immorality that was being carried out under the guise of missionary work. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse. When Indian labor forces began to decline from the abuses heaped upon them, it was Las Casas who, in defense of the Indians he had grown to love, suggested slaves be imported from Africa. Although he later recanted and worked just as hard to free black slaves as he had indigenous Indians, the damage was done. Throughout the Caribbean, African slaves took the place of indigenous slaves, and to this day their descendants are more numerous than the people who once ruled the islands. Although their labors are not given a lot of space in politically correct history books— the authors of which rightly seek to expose the barbarity of early fifteenth-century Caribbean slavery—the facts are that many Dominicans saw quickly and clearly what was happening in the Americas. They fought, unsuccessfully, to right the many sins European governments committed in their attempts to exploit the wealth of the New World.

It is significant that theologians of the time who wrote against slavery usually did so not on the basis of the inherent immorality of the system, but on the logic of how wealth would be distributed.

One would think religious orders would get along fairly well, but such is not always the case. One famous dispute took place after the Protestant Reformation. The Council of Trent, which lasted from 1545 to 1563, had condemned both Luther and Calvin on their views of grace and predestination, and many feared that the much respected Augustine, beloved of the reformers, would soon be condemned as well. Late in the sixteenth century the Jesuits produced a document stating that predestination (see Calvin, John, and Jacobus Arminius) was based on God's foreknowledge. One of the best Dominican theologians of the time countered the argument by stating that the Jesuits were anti-Augustine and ought to be condemned.

The trial went all the way to the top of the Inquisition. The Dominicans accused the Jesuits of being Pelagians (believers in free will). The Jesuits countered that the Dominicans were Calvinists (believers in predestination). The Inquisition turned the whole thing over to Rome, which, after a long time and many popes, told them both to go to their rooms and stop fighting.

Today, the various orders, though still competitive in a good-natured way, are usually a lot more polite to each other.


hound who travels widely. [Children’s Lit.: Dominic]
See: Dogs
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