Marco Lombardo, on the Third Terrace

The Good Shepherd.

In one of the more constructive criticisms of the Institution of the Church in the Divine Comedy, the Pilgrim is discussing the causes of Evil with Marco Lombardo on the third Terrace in Purgatory. The Lombard then goes onto a long tirade about the Church of Rome and its decay and corruption, but it ties into a much larger philosophical point, that of the Free Will and peoples’ ability and capacity to make good choices in life.

This topic arises right after they had discussed how the Free Will is a Gift, but one that has to be gradually developed through learning and understanding the world better, in order to make more helpful and constructive choices for oneself. And this is then tied into the problem of the widespread evil that Dante the writer saw in his contemporary times – he sees a major root of the problem to be the failure of the Church of Rome to spiritually guide and educate people, and thus creating a healthy and constructive people and culture. And as an aside; this is where Dante is promoting a good and constructive Church, whereas other and later figures promoted abandoning the institution altogether as the solution.

But the larger point is also an intriguing one, that even though the individual has a free will to choose and to use its reason to overcome the various individual inclinations and shortcomings, there is still a necessity for guidance and education, and managing this within a culture, is Dante’s claim. The repeated imagery of aiming the bow and hitting the targets in life indicates the difficulty of navigating and orienting oneself in a sea of opportunities and pathways to choose from. And this again points to the overall aspiration of the Comedy, to help with this personal and spiritual growth as a map and compass, towards a better life for oneself, and for a culture on a larger scale.



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