The Inquisitorial Synod, responsible for protecting the Church from threats of a spiritual nature, reports to the College of Ethicals. A council largely dominated by members of Temple Avesti, the Synod nonetheless has a significant Orthodox minority, and if it often acts more zealously than the Patriarch might wish, it is still a mainstay of Church power and quite beholden to the rest of the Church. In addition to chasing down heretics, the Inquisitorial Synod also appoints deputies to oversee the Church’s libraries, archives, and reliquaries to ensure that security protocols are in place which keep forbidden lore fully hidden. One of the Inquisition’s duties is also to determine exactly which lore is deemed heretical, and this requires a great deal of reading and occasional theological discussion. Of course, the Inquisiton also licenses a number of pilgrims to purge the Known Worlds of sin as well. The Inquisitorial Synod was founded by the Patriarchal bull On the Protection of the Prophet’s Word, issued by Patriarch Zenobiah II in 4211. It was originally intended to serve as a regulatory body ensuring that the Ten maintained their allegiance to the Universal Church and to serve as a gentler way of regulating technological excesses that the nobility still committed than Temple Avesti threatened. The Synod, under the guidance of its First Speaker, the famous Orthodox cardinal Hadrian Franciscus, issued the Credo Inquisitorum, which laid out its mission in more detail. The Synod, largely a regulatory and administrative body charged with ensuring continuity of religious services and instruction over the Known Worlds, was a success at securing the allegiance of the Ten to the Universal Church, but it did not fully defuse the tensions Temple Avesti was causing.
When the noble houses finally took action against Temple Avesti in 4235 and were headed off by a Patriarchal fleet, feverish negotiations between the Patriarch and the Avestites led to a compromise which would forever alter the nature of the Inquisition. As a condition of Temple Avesti’s concession of Patriarchal authority, the Avestite Pontius Cciardi insisted that Avestites be granted 11 of the seats on the Inquisitorial Synod. For a time, the Avestites were an embattled minority on the Inquisitorial Synod, chartering a number of bold investigations but kept in check by the more numerous Orthodox and Amalthean cardinals on the Synod. Over time, however, the Avestites grew in influence over the Synod, and the striking success of Avestite-sponsored Inquisitorial investigations at rooting out the Sathraist and Republican Resurgence cults that flourished in those times, as well as the more overtly destructive PanSingularist remnants, Li Halan, and other infernal antinomists, allowed the Temple to gain more and more seats on the Synod. Finally in 4357 the newly-ordained Patriarch Jacob I ceded to the remarkable Avestite Argus the Vigilant and his followers, in recognition of his uncovering of an Infernal Antinomist cabal on Holy Terra, 12 seats, giving Temple Avesti 38 of the 77 seats on the Synod. Immediately thereafter, Argus led an investigation of the Amalthean cardinal Sarita Subrahmanian, exposing her knowing toleration of a group of confirmed Zuranists. Cardinal Sarita was forced to step down, and the Avestites claimed her seat, giving them a 39-seat majority on the Synod. For the next few years, a series of investigations known now as the great Purgatio of 4357 (though it continued until 4364), resulte d in most of the Amaltheans present in the body being forced to leave on charges of tolerating or consorting with bintaru worshippers, gjartins, or occasionally Sathraists. Those Amaltheans that were untouched by these accusations finally left the Synod in 4364, in protest of the newly expanded mission of the body.
Under First Speaker Argus, the Inquisitorial Synod issued the Instructiones Inquisitorium, a lengthy volume of protocols for the new corps of Inquisitorial investigators to use in their pursuit and judgement of spiritual threats to the Church. The Synod proved a remarkable tool for gathering evidence against members of House Li Halan that would induce neighboring houses, especially House Alecto and House Gesar, to lead several wars of purification against them. Indeed, Argus’ newly militant Inquisitorial Synod is considered to have been one of the key factors leading to the internal strife that permitted the rebellion of Cardano’s cousin Aurelio in 4403, the rebellion in which Cardano experienced his conversion.
The Inquisitorial Synod has experienced fairly steady, if slow, growth since the issuance of the Instructiones Inquisitorium, and although its power was severely checked after the excesses of Halvor the Theocrat, it has regained a great deal of credibility since the Symbiot invasions. The Emperor has recently been suggesting a reduction in size in the body, but so far these overtures have gone unheeded.
The Inquisitorial Synod is headquartered on Holy Terra in the ancient city of Antioch, which it maintains as a haven of utter purity for the many ecclesiastical staff that compose and serve the Synod. The Synod is composed of 77 cardinals, of whom one is designated the First Speaker by a vote of the Synod. The First Speaker serves as a moderator for the Synod’s discussions and can issue certain Inquisitorial directives without approval of the Synod, but the true authority rests in the votes of the members of the Synod. Each holder of a seat on the Synod may designate a successor, but this successor may be rejected by a vote of the rest of the Synod. This is part of the reason that the fact that Temple Avesti inquisitors hold 56 of the seats of the Synod gives them such influence over Inquisitorial policy. 19 of the other holders of seats on the Synod are Orthodox, and the remaining two are Eskatonic (a development dating back to the Pentateuch Concordat). Since shortly after the Purgatio, there have been no Amalthean members of the Synod.
Each Synod member has a nebulous purview, as a neglect for boundaries and limitations is one of the fundamental precepts of the Synod (“For do even the most gross and mundane flames content themselves to remain in one place, or do they spread over all lands with unchecked ardor if they are not barred by design? And is the Holy Flame of righteousness and purity more sluggish and lazy than the base physical flames? Or are there any so foul that they would form designs to bar the Flame Eternal’s sacred progression?”- the Credo Inquisitoriam). Still, over time certain areas of focus have emerged as an informal way of preventing the body’s members from coming into conflict with one another. Each planet in the Known Worlds has one Synod member who customarily covers it, while the spaceways are divided among three more Synod members. One Synod member covers technological threats, one covers Republicanism, another other secular ideological threats, one covers non-infernal heresies, one covers Sathraism, two cover infernal antinomy, one covers Known Worlds alien threats, one covers Annunaki threats, one covers psychics, one covers the Changed, one covers schismatics within the Church, one covers the fading of the suns, one covers threats originating outside the Known Worlds, one covers threats within the Inquisition itself, and one now covers the Symbiots in particular. Several Synod members are responsible for determining which ideas are heretical and which are not, and they do a great deal of reading and scholarship, unlike most other members of the Synod. Synod members without any other particular purview simply pursue projects at their own discretion, though every Synod member does this to a degree in any case.
Each Synod member has a tremendous amount of influence and resources. A Synod member has the ability to issue an Inquisitorial Seal, which empowers its bearer to do almost anything in the pursuit of his duties. Most Inquisitorial Seals are awarded for specific tasks, and often for specific durations as well. It is a crime worthy of excommunication to interfere with the mission of a bearer of the Seal. The Emperor or his duly appointed officers have the power to order a bearer of such a seal to desist if they are violating Imperial law, but this power is almost never exercised. Of course, bearers of the Seals do try to cooperate with powerful lords rather than simply override their authority. Bearers of Inquisitorial Seals almost always consider themselves authorized to use magical spells upon nobles that they suspect, and though they restrain themselves from doing so without good reason, this type of behavior happens enough to cause a number of unpleasant incidents.
Each Synod member has a number of contacts and subordinates who investigate matters of interest to that Synod member and who are granted Seals from time to time when necessary. Many of the inquiries these investigators make are made without them holding a Seal, but when there is suspicion of great wrongdoing or of collusion on the parts of local powers, the investigators will try to acquire a Seal. These investigatory teams vary wildly in composition, but almost always include a powerful theurge and a competent bodyguard, usually made up of several combatants. Investigatory teams may be attended by Swords of Lextius, Adepts of Mantius, penitent lords, or simply warrior-priests trained by the Inquisition.
All investigators are trained by other Inquisitorial investigators. Often this tutelage takes place wherever the older investigator happens to be residing, but ideally the young investigator would study at an Inquisitory Academy, of which the most famous are on the Argus Academy in Antioch on Holy Terra and the Academia Pietrolarchia on Pyre, but there are also sizeable Academia on Kish, Malignatius, Ravenna, and Stigmata and smaller ones on other worlds.
More formidable than investigators are full-fledged Inquisitors, those priests who are given an Inquisitorial Seal for their entire lifetimes. These Inquisitors almost always travel in large retinues including many investigators and all manner of warriors, from wardens and men-at-arms to round up peasants for questioning, to flamegun-wielding priests, to armigers and often one or two fearsome fighters in powered armor. Full Inquisitors are often powerful theurges, especially when they are Avestites, and those that are not always have theurges in attendance. Inquisitors also often travel with Penitent psychics, though there are a few that disdain to do so. Of course, full-fledged Inquisitors vary in prominence and power as well, but most that have earned the right to carry a lifetime Seal are quite formidable individuals and travel with large and well-trained entourages. They often travel in starships, and some take perverse pleasure in descending without warning on peaceful communities and sweeping through them looking for sin. (“Are we to arm sin with the advance notice it may use to hide itself, and thus to take arms ourselves against the forces of purity? Nay. Let our inquisition be sudden, and let not our foes expect our coming.” –Credo Inquisitoriam)
Of course, the Inquisition has a greater presence than its bands of investigators and Inquisitors would indicate. The entire Church is responsible for alerting the Inquisition of possible spiritual threats, and though many priests are lax in these responsibilities, there are many who are quite vigilant. Furthermore, all other citizens of the Known Worlds are obliged to report strange happenings to the Church. Among nobles and guilders, this obligation is often taken with a grain of salt, but the peasantry of most worlds is quite unswerving in its devotion to the local clergy. Even in less orthodox areas where schismatic or heretical views are winked at, those who threaten to upset the balance by speaking out are in great danger of attracting Inquisitorial attention, while in more homogeneous and orthodox areas, those with unpopular or strange views must keep them very well hidden.