Thursday, February 25, 2010

Papal and Spanish Inquisitions - Friday 26 February, Ember Friday, Ferial Day

Papal and Spanish Inquisitions

The very word "Inquisition" ( which derives from the Latin verb, inquiro (3) - "to inquire") conjures up images of torture and oppression carried out by monks of the Catholic Church, in an age bygone.

This is unfair and not based on facts as has been revealed in the 1994 BBC Film, "The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition" and other modern scholars, like William Thomas Walsh in his "Characters of the Inquisition"...

We have seen the past couple of antipopes apologizing for the so -called abuses and persecutions during the periods of the Inquisitions, totally uncalled for because, in the opinion of historians they were the most just and benign tribunals in their day.

The Inquisition protected the rights of defendants and established a level of Christian jurisprudence that the far more death dealing Protestant countries at that time were far from attaining.

More false information has been circulated against the Catholic Church than almost any other topic.


[ Gallileo- before the Inquisition]

Until the 13th century , the official policy of the Church regarding heretis was that of St. Paul, St .Augustine and other Fathers of the early Christian Church, that heretics were to be allowed full religious liberty, and not to be harmed in any way, other than exclusion from the Christian community.

As St. Cyprian of Carthage wrote, " Of what use is cruelty? What has the rack to do with piety?

Beginning in the 13th century, the Albegensian heretics began to attack the Catholic Church, Holy Mass, the Sacraments , teachings of the Church, and undermining the moral basis of human society, by subverting oaths, denying the right of states to punish criminals, forbidding marriage and procreation, and encouraging suicide especially by starvation.


And so, the Papal Inquisition, a system of ecclesiastical courts was set up for trying and punishing heresy was established in 1230, with jurisdiction over Catholics and fallen away Catholics only.

These courts were commissioned to first seek the reformation of heretics by warnings or slight penamces which most accepted. Their scrupulous rules of procedures protected the accused more safeguards than the defendants in modern courts do today.

Only lapsed or intransigent heretics were eventually found guilty , and as the ecclesiastical court's authority ended there, were handed over to the state, which at that time considered heresy a crime of anarchy and high treason, undermining the state.


The Papal Inquisition was revived again in the 15th century, to deal with false conversions of Jews and Mohammedans, and in the 16th century to deal with the virulent Protestant heresy that was sweeping Europe.


The Spanish Inquisition did not proceed against sincere followers of any religion, but only those Spaniards, Jews and Moors, who having been members of the Catholic Faith, pretended to be Catholic, had actually given up their faith and had become involved in treacheries against Spain.

[ Tomas de Torquemada ( 1420 - 1498), Dominican, first Grand Inquisitor of Spain, has been called "the hammer of heretic"]

Around 1492, the top Jews in Spain had wormed their way into high positions of the Church and State, by pretending to be Christians. These false Marrano Jews, as they were called, were working with the Muslims across the Straits of Gibralter to overthrow Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and turn a Christian country into a Moslem country.

Queen Isabella reacted in time and enacted the Spanish Inquisition, to inquire who were the false Marrano Jews working in both Church and State to betray both.

The Spanish Inquisition was not a mad rampage where millions were killed indiscriminately, but a careful rooting out of traitors who were about to betray and perhaps destroy Spain, first , and then Christian Europe.

In the recent BBC documentary - not a pro -Catholic organization, called "The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition", historians presented their conclusions from the first time study of the actual cases taken from the archives of the Inquisition itself, discovered that the common notion of the Spanish Inquisition as some horrible, fanatical, all-encompassing blood-thirsty monster could not be further from the truth.

The BBC documentary stresses that the Inquisition was governed by very strict manuals of procedure, which spelled out could or could not be done.

By contrast to the other tribunals (Protestant) of Europe, they emerged as almost enlightened. Anyone breaking the rules was sacked. The Inquisitors were interrogators, but restrained interrogators, sceptical of the use of hardships or torture. The torture chamber was never used in Spain. It was practiced in the Protestant Northern European countries, at the time.
For example, the register of Bernard Gui ( 1261 - 1331 ), the Inquisitor of Toulouse for six years, who examined more than 600 heretics, shows only one instance where a mild torture was used. In the vast majority of cases, those who were found guilty were enjoined to say some prayers or recite the seven Penitential Psalms.

The documentary noted that from 1450 - 1750 there was a terrible persecution of witchcraft in the Protestant countries of Europe and the United States. At the merest suggestion of horrible crimes such as killing babies or sleeping with the devil, women were tortured or burnt at the stake.

The Papal Inquisition said, however, that witchcraft was a delusion, and in fact that no one could be tried or burned for it.

In Protestant Europe, 150,000 were prosecuted for the crime of witchcraft, and perhaps half that number were condemned and executed. In one year alone, 1692, in the United States, the Protestant Salem witch trials executed twenty "witches". Protestants even sold as slaves they considered heretics, like Anne Hutchinson, under the Authority of the General Court of Boston, and four of them were hanged there, including the Quaker, Mary Dyer.

Historian, John Tedeschi, described the Papal Inquisition as not a "drumhead court, a chamber of horrors, or a judicial labyrinth from which escape was impossible, misuse of authority, and wanton abuse of human rights were not tolerated.
The Inquisitors were theological experts who followed the rules and instructions meticulously and were dismissed and punished when they showed little regard for justice. When, for example, in 1223, Robert of Bourger gleefully announced his aim to burn heretics not to convert them, he was immediately suspended and imprisoned for life by Pope Gregory IX ( Maycock, The Inquisition , p 128 - 129).

If these are the facts of the Inquisition, how has the myth that many today associate with the Papal Inquisition attained such currency? In fact the myth is known to have been manufactured. It is known by whom. The common misconception, however, confuses the highly - political Spanish Inquisition ( 1480 - 1834 ), which was conducted by the Spanish government for secular political purposes, from the Papal Inquisition, which was conducted by the Church under strict canonical rule.

In the 16th century a body of writings, termed the "Black Legend" , which vilified both Spain and her Catholic faith, emanated from the Protestant countries of Northern Europe, which were in a pitched political battle with Catholic Spain, then the great continental power. Her Protestant enemies were jealous of Spain, and many resorted to the lie of the "Black Legend" to help bring down Spanish power and control.
This Black Legend is known to have been fabricated principally by one, Montanus ( Renaldo Gonzales Montana), who in 1567 published his Sanctae Inquisitionis Hispanicae Artes Aliquot Detectae ac Palam Traductae ( A Discovery and Playne Declaration of Sundry and Subtill Practices of the Holy Inquisition of Spayne), which was soon translated from Latin into all the major languages of Western Europe ( English, German French , Dutch) and widely circulated.

In this work, which one would call "racist" today, Spaniards were described by Protestant Northern European sources as dark, cruel, greedy, treacherous, ignorant and narrow. The Papal Inquisition was fiercely attacked with gross exageration.

Myth can be destroyed only by fact, and the fact is that between 3000 and 5000 were killed in the 350 years of the Inquisition, whereas in the same period in Protestant countries, 150,000 witches alone were burned for heresy. As Professor Stephen Haliczer of Northern University of Illinois verifies, the Inquisitors never used method of torture that were common in Protestant countries - disemboweling and gouging out of eyes for example.

The Inquisition compared to other tribunals in the Protestant countries has virtually a clean record in respect to torture.

For example, Spain and Spanish America executed during the 350 years of the Inquisition, only 40 - 50 were executed, in comparison to the Protestant English Inquisition, which during the reign of Mary and Elizabeth ( 1553- 1603), executed over 400 people, and in the anti - Catholic persecutions generally, 72,000 souls.

In England thousands of defendants were being executed for crimes as insignificant as damaging shrubs in public gardens and poaching deer and stealing a woman's handkerchief. Yet these facts are generally hidden by a very succesful campaign by Elizabeth, which historians call the "Mask of Elizabethan Propaganda"

Thus, it was a combination of political rivalry, contempt for the Catholic faith, and anti - Spanish nationalism that has created a distorted myth of the Inquisition.

In the United States, abetting that myth , were the admittedly brilliant and unforgettable, though fictional short stories of the master story teller, Edgar Allan Poe.

Recently, a study of 61 volumes of the Procesos ( Official Trial Records) of the Mexican branch ( 1593 - 1817 ) of the Papal Inquisition was conducted by two Universtity of California scholars . Prof. Thomas Brady and Arthur Quinn ( California Monthly, April, 1997, pp 18 -19), confirmed that, in contrast to the secular crimal procedures of the time, the Papal Inquisition allowed councel to the defendent, reauired a formal charge, and gave judges wide discretion in mitigating sentences ( most of which were religious in nature like the rectitation of the Seven Penitential Psalms or wearing a cross).

The scholars concluded that "the trials were remarkably fair and weighed heavily on the side of the accused." They further concluded: "Long held myths represent asnd nourish deeply felt needs, but they must be abandoned because they falsify history."

opus est perfectus...