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Tema: The Truth About the Spanish Inquisition

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    The Truth About the Spanish Inquisition

    The Truth About the Spanish Inquisition

    THOMAS F. MADDENBecause it was both professional and efficient, the Spanish Inquisition kept very good records.

    These documents are a goldmine for modern historians who have plunged greedily into them. Thus far, the fruits of that research have made one thing abundantly clear -- the myth of the Spanish Inquisition has nothing at all to do with the real thing. The scene is a plain-looking room with a door to the left. A pleasant young man, pestered by tedious and irrelevant questions, exclaims in a frustrated tone, "I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition." Suddenly the door bursts open to reveal Cardinal Ximinez flanked by Cardinal Fang and Cardinal Biggles. "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Ximinez shouts. "Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope.... Our four...no.... Amongst our weapons...amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again."
    Anyone not living under a rock for the past 30 years will likely recognize this famous scene from Monty Python's Flying Circus. In these sketches three scarlet-clad, inept inquisitors torture their victims with such instruments as pillows and comfy chairs. The whole thing is funny because the audience knows full well that the Spanish Inquisition was neither inept nor comfortable, but ruthless, intolerant, and deadly. One need not have read Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum to have heard of the dark dungeons, sadistic churchmen, and excruciating tortures of the Spanish Inquisition. The rack, the iron maiden, the bonfires on which the Catholic Church dumped its enemies by the millions: These are all familiar icons of the Spanish Inquisition set firmly into our culture.
    This image of the Spanish Inquisition is a useful one for those who have little love for the Catholic Church. Anyone wishing to beat the Church about the head and shoulders will not tarry long before grabbing two favorite clubs: the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. I have dealt with the Crusades in a previous issue of Crisis (see "The Real History of the Crusades," April 2002). Now on to the other club.
    In order to understand the Spanish Inquisition, which began in the late 15th century, we must look briefly at its predecessor, the medieval Inquisition. Before we do, though, it's worth pointing out that the medieval world was not the modern world. For medieval people, religion was not something one just did at church. It was their science, their philosophy, their politics, their identity, and their hope for salvation. It was not a personal preference but an abiding and universal truth. Heresy, then, struck at the heart of that truth. It doomed the heretic, endangered those near him, and tore apart the fabric of community. Medieval Europeans were not alone in this view. It was shared by numerous cultures around the world. The modern practice of universal religious toleration is itself quite new and uniquely Western.
    Secular and ecclesiastical leaders in medieval Europe approached heresy in different ways. Roman law equated heresy with treason. Why? Because kingship was God-given, thus making heresy an inherent challenge to royal authority. Heretics divided people, causing unrest and rebellion. No Christian doubted that God would punish a community that allowed heresy to take root and spread. Kings and commoners, therefore, had good reason to find and destroy heretics wherever they found them -- and they did so with gusto.
    For medieval people, religion was not something one just did at church. It was their science, their philosophy, their politics, their identity, and their hope for salvation. It was not a personal preference but an abiding and universal truth. Heresy, then, struck at the heart of that truth. It doomed the heretic, endangered those near him, and tore apart the fabric of community.
    One of the most enduring myths of the Inquisition is that it was a tool of oppression imposed on unwilling Europeans by a power-hungry Church. Nothing could be more wrong. In truth, the Inquisition brought order, justice, and compassion to combat rampant secular and popular persecutions of heretics. When the people of a village rounded up a suspected heretic and brought him before the local lord, how was he to be judged? How could an illiterate layman determine if the accused's beliefs were heretical or not? And how were witnesses to be heard and examined?
    The medieval Inquisition began in 1184 when Pope Lucius III sent a list of heresies to Europe's bishops and commanded them to take an active role in determining whether those accused of heresy were, in fact, guilty. Rather than relying on secular courts, local lords, or just mobs, bishops were to see to it that accused heretics in their dioceses were examined by knowledgeable churchmen using Roman laws of evidence. In other words, they were to "inquire" -- thus, the term "inquisition."
    From the perspective of secular authorities, heretics were traitors to God and king and therefore deserved death. From the perspective of the Church, however, heretics were lost sheep that had strayed from the flock. As shepherds, the pope and bishops had a duty to bring those sheep back into the fold, just as the Good Shepherd had commanded them. So, while medieval secular leaders were trying to safeguard their kingdoms, the Church was trying to save souls. The Inquisition provided a means for heretics to escape death and return to the community.
    Most people accused of heresy by the medieval Inquisition were either acquitted or their sentence suspended. Those found guilty of grave error were allowed to confess their sin, do penance, and be restored to the Body of Christ. The underlying assumption of the Inquisition was that, like lost sheep, heretics had simply strayed. If, however, an inquisitor determined that a particular sheep had purposely departed out of hostility to the flock, there was nothing more that could be done. Unrepentant or obstinate heretics were excommunicated and given over to the secular authorities. Despite popular myth, the Church did not burn heretics. It was the secular authorities that held heresy to be a capital offense. The simple fact is that the medieval Inquisition saved uncounted thousands of innocent (and even not-so-innocent) people who would otherwise have been roasted by secular lords or mob rule.
    As the power of medieval popes grew, so too did the extent and sophistication of the Inquisition. The introduction of the Franciscans and Dominicans in the early 13th century provided the papacy with a corps of dedicated religious willing to devote their lives to the salvation of the world. Because their order had been created to debate with heretics and preach the Catholic faith, the Dominicans became especially active in the Inquisition. Following the most progressive law codes of the day, the Church in the 13th century formed inquisitorial tribunals answerable to Rome rather than local bishops. To ensure fairness and uniformity, manuals were written for inquisitorial officials. Bernard Gui, best known today as the fanatical and evil inquisitor in The Name of the Rose, wrote a particularly influential manual. There is no reason to believe that Gui was anything like his fictional portrayal.
    By the 14th century, the Inquisition represented the best legal practices available. Inquisition officials were university-trained specialists in law and theology. The procedures were similar to those used in secular inquisitions (we call them "inquests" today, but it's the same word).
    The power of kings rose dramatically in the late Middle Ages. Secular rulers strongly supported the Inquisition because they saw it as an efficient way to ensure the religious health of their kingdoms. If anything, kings faulted the Inquisition for being too lenient on heretics. As in other areas of ecclesiastical control, secular authorities in the late Middle Ages began to take over the Inquisition, removing it from papal oversight. In France, for example, royal officials assisted by legal scholars at the University of Paris assumed control of the French Inquisition. Kings justified this on the belief that they knew better than the faraway pope how best to deal with heresy in their own kingdoms.
    From the perspective of secular authorities, heretics were traitors to God and king and therefore deserved death. From the perspective of the Church, however, heretics were lost sheep that had strayed from the flock.
    These dynamics would help to form the Spanish Inquisition -- but there were others as well. Spain was in many ways quite different from the rest of Europe. Conquered by Muslim jihad in the eighth century, the Iberian peninsula had been a place of near constant warfare. Because borders between Muslim and Christian kingdoms shifted rapidly over the centuries, it was in most rulers' interest to practice a fair degree of tolerance for other religions. The ability of Muslims, Christians, and Jews to live together, called convivencia by the Spanish, was a rarity in the Middle Ages. Indeed, Spain was the most diverse and tolerant place in medieval Europe. England expelled all of its Jews in 1290. France did the same in 1306. Yet in Spain Jews thrived at every level of society.
    But it was perhaps inevitable that the waves of anti-Semitism that swept across medieval Europe would eventually find their way into Spain. Envy, greed, and gullibility led to rising tensions between Christians and Jews in the 14th century. During the summer of 1391, urban mobs in Barcelona and other towns poured into Jewish quarters, rounded up Jews, and gave them a choice of baptism or death. Most took baptism. The king of Aragon, who had done his best to stop the attacks, later reminded his subjects of well-established Church doctrine on the matter of forced baptisms -- they don't count. He decreed that any Jews who accepted baptism to avoid death could return to their religion.
    But most of these new converts, or conversos, decided to remain Catholic. There were many reasons for this. Some believed that apostasy made them unfit to be Jewish. Others worried that returning to Judaism would leave them vulnerable to future attacks. Still others saw their baptism as a way to avoid the increasing number of restrictions and taxes imposed on Jews. As time passed, the conversos settled into their new religion, becoming just as pious as other Catholics. Their children were baptized at birth and raised as Catholics. But they remained in a cultural netherworld. Although Christian, most conversos still spoke, dressed, and ate like Jews. Many continued to live in Jewish quarters so as to be near family members. The presence of conversos had the effect of Christianizing Spanish Judaism. This in turn led to a steady stream of voluntary conversions to Catholicism.
    In 1414 a debate was held in Tortosa between Christian and Jewish leaders. Pope Benedict XIII himself attended. On the Christian side was the papal physician, Jerónimo de Santa Fe, who had recently converted from Judaism. The debate brought about a wave of new voluntary conversions. In Aragon alone, 3,000 Jews received baptism. All of this caused a good deal of tension between those who remained Jewish and those who became Catholic. Spanish rabbis after 1391 had considered conversos to be Jews, since they had been forced into baptism. Yet by 1414, rabbis repeatedly stressed that conversos were indeed true Christians, since they had voluntarily left Judaism.
    By the mid-15th century, a whole new converso culture was flowering in Spain -- Jewish in ethnicity and culture, but Catholic in religion. Conversos, whether new converts themselves or the descendants of converts, took enormous pride in that culture. Some even asserted that they were better than the "Old Christians," since as Jews they were related by blood to Christ Himself. When the converso bishop of Burgos, Alonso de Cartagena, prayed the Hail Mary, he would say with pride, "Holy Mary, Mother of God and my blood relative, pray for us sinners…"
    The expansion of converso wealth and power in Spain led to a backlash, particularly among aristocratic and middle-class Old Christians. They resented the arrogance of the conversos and envied their successes. Several tracts were written demonstrating that virtually every noble bloodline in Spain had been infiltrated by conversos. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories abounded. The conversos, it was said, were part of an elaborate Jewish plot to take over the Spanish nobility and the Catholic Church, destroying both from within. The conversos, according to this logic, were not sincere Christians but secret Jews.
    Spain's Jews had nothing to fear from the Spanish Inquisition.
    Modern scholarship has definitively shown that, like most conspiracy theories, this one was pure imagination. The vast majority of conversos were good Catholics who simply took pride in their Jewish heritage. Surprisingly, many modern authors -- indeed, many Jewish authors -- have embraced these anti-Semitic fantasies. It is common today to hear that the conversos really were secret Jews, struggling to keep their faith hidden under the tyranny of Catholicism. Even the American Heritage Dictionary describes "converso " as "a Spanish or Portuguese Jew who converted outwardly to Christianity in the late Middle Ages so as to avoid persecution or expulsion, though often continuing to practice Judaism in secret." This is simply false.
    But the constant drumbeat of accusations convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that the matter of secret Jews should at least be investigated. Responding to their request, Pope Sixtus IV issued a bull on November 1, 1478, allowing the crown to form an inquisitorial tribunal consisting of two or three priests over the age of 40. As was now the custom, the monarchs would have complete authority over the inquisitors and the inquisition. Ferdinand, who had many Jews and conversos in his court, was not at first overly enthusiastic about the whole thing. Two years elapsed before he finally appointed two men. Thus began the Spanish Inquisition.
    King Ferdinand seems to have believed that the inquiry would turn up little. He was wrong. A tinderbox of resentment and hatred exploded across Spain as the enemies of conversos -- both Christian and Jewish -- came out of the woodwork to denounce them. Score-settling and opportunism were the primary motivators. Nevertheless, the sheer volume of accusations overwhelmed the inquisitors. They asked for and received more assistants, but the larger the Inquisition became, the more accusations it received. At last even Ferdinand was convinced that the problem of secret Jews was real.
    In this early stage of the Spanish Inquisition, Old Christians and Jews used the tribunals as a weapon against their converso enemies. Since the Inquisition's sole purpose was to investigate conversos, the Old Christians had nothing to fear from it. Their fidelity to the Catholic faith was not under investigation (although it was far from pure). As for the Jews, they were immune to the Inquisition. Remember, the purpose of an inquisition was to find and correct the lost sheep of Christ's flock. It had no jurisdiction over other flocks. Those who get their history from Mel Brooks's History of the World, Part I will perhaps be surprised to learn that all of those Jews enduring various tortures in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition are nothing more than a product of Brooks's fertile imagination. Spain's Jews had nothing to fear from the Spanish Inquisition.
    In the early, rapidly expanding years, there was plenty of abuse and confusion. Most accused conversos were acquitted, but not all. Well-publicized burnings -- often because of blatantly false testimony -- justifiably frightened other conversos. Those with enemies often fled town before they could be denounced. Everywhere they looked, the inquisitors found more accusers. As the Inquisition expanded into Aragon, the hysteria levels reached new heights. Pope Sixtus IV attempted to put a stop to it. On April 18, 1482, he wrote to the bishops of Spain:
    In Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, and Catalonia the Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls but by lust for wealth. Many true and faithful Christians, on the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves, and other lower and even less proper persons, have without any legitimate proof been thrust into secular prisons, tortured and condemned as relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and property and handed over to the secular arm to be executed, to the peril of souls, setting a pernicious example, and causing disgust to many.
    Sixtus ordered the bishops to take a direct role in all future tribunals. They were to ensure that the Church's well-established norms of justice were respected. The accused were to have legal counsel and the right to appeal their case to Rome.
    Sixtus ordered the bishops to take a direct role in all future tribunals. They were to ensure that the Church's well-established norms of justice were respected. The accused were to have legal counsel and the right to appeal their case to Rome.
    In the Middle Ages, the pope's commands would have been obeyed. But those days were gone. King Ferdinand was outraged when he heard of the letter. He wrote to Sixtus, openly suggesting that the pope had been bribed with converso gold:
    Things have been told me, Holy Father, which, if true, would seem to merit the greatest astonishment.… To these rumors, however, we have given no credence because they seem to be things which would in no way have been conceded by Your Holiness who has a duty to the Inquisition. But if by chance concessions have been made through the persistent and cunning persuasion of the conversos, I intend never to let them take effect. Take care therefore not to let the matter go further, and to revoke any concessions and entrust us with the care of this question.
    That was the end of the papacy's role in the Spanish Inquisition. It would henceforth be an arm of the Spanish monarchy, separate from ecclesiastical authority. It is odd, then, that the Spanish Inquisition is so often today described as one of the Catholic Church's great sins. The Catholic Church as an institution had almost nothing to do with it.
    In 1483 Ferdinand appointed Tomás de Torquemada as inquistor-general for most of Spain. It was Torquemada's job to establish rules of evidence and procedure for the Inquisition as well as to set up branches in major cities. Sixtus confirmed the appointment, hoping that it would bring some order to the situation.
    Unfortunately, the problem only snowballed. This was a direct result of the methods employed by the early Spanish Inquisition, which strayed significantly from Church standards. When the inquisitors arrived in a particular area, they would announce an Edict of Grace. This was a 30-day period in which secret Jews could voluntarily come forward, confess their sin, and do penance. This was also a time for others with information about Christians practicing Judaism in secret to make it known to the tribunal. Those found guilty after the 30 days elapsed could be burned at the stake.
    For conversos, then, the arrival of the Inquisition certainly focused the mind. They generally had plenty of enemies, any one of whom might decide to bear false witness. Or perhaps their cultural practices were sufficient for condemnation? Who knew? Most conversos, therefore, either fled or lined up to confess. Those who did neither risked an inquiry in which any kind of hearsay or evidence, no matter how old or suspicious, was acceptable.
    Opposition in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to the Spanish Inquisition only increased. Many churchmen pointed out that it was contrary to all accepted practices for heretics to be burned without instruction in the Faith. If the conversos were guilty at all, it was merely of ignorance, not willful heresy. Numerous clergy at the highest levels complained to Ferdinand. Opposition to the Spanish Inquisition also continued in Rome. Sixtus's successor, Innocent VIII, wrote twice to the king asking for greater compassion, mercy, and leniency for the conversos -- but to no avail.
    As the Spanish Inquisition picked up steam, those involved became increasingly convinced that Spain's Jews were actively seducing the conversos back into their old faith. It was a silly idea, no more real than the previous conspiracy theories. But Ferdinand and Isabella were influenced by it. Both of the monarchs had Jewish friends and confidants, but they also felt that their duty to their Christian subjects impelled them to remove the danger. Beginning in 1482, they expelled Jews from specific areas where the trouble seemed greatest. Over the next decade, though, they were under increasing pressure to remove the perceived threat. The Spanish Inquisition, it was argued, could never succeed in bringing the conversos back into the fold while the Jews undermined its work. Finally, on March 31, 1492, the monarchs issued an edict expelling all Jews from Spain.
    Ferdinand and Isabella expected that their edict would result in the conversion of most of the remaining Jews in their kingdom. They were largely correct. Many Jews in high positions, including those in the royal court, accepted baptism immediately. In 1492 the Jewish population of Spain numbered about 80,000. About half were baptized and thereby kept their property and livelihoods. The rest departed, but many of them eventually returned to Spain, where they received baptism and had their property restored. As far as the Spanish Inquisition was concerned, the expulsion of the Jews meant that the caseload of conversos was now much greater.
    That was the end of the papacy's role in the Spanish Inquisition. It would henceforth be an arm of the Spanish monarchy, separate from ecclesiastical authority. It is odd, then, that the Spanish Inquisition is so often today described as one of the Catholic Church's great sins. The Catholic Church as an institution had almost nothing to do with it.
    The first 15 years of the Spanish Inquisition, under the direction of Torquemada, were the deadliest. Approximately 2,000 conversos were put to the flames. By 1500, however, the hysteria had calmed. Torquemada's successor, the cardinal archbishop of Toledo, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, worked hard to reform the Inquisition, removing bad apples and reforming procedures. Each tribunal was given two Dominican inquisitors, a legal adviser, a constable, a prosecutor, and a large number of assistants. With the exception of the two Dominicans, all of these were royal lay officials. The Spanish Inquisition was largely funded by confiscations, but these were not frequent or great. Indeed, even at its peak the Inquisition was always just making ends meet.
    After the reforms, the Spanish Inquisition had very few critics. Staffed by well-educated legal professionals, it was one of the most efficient and compassionate judicial bodies in Europe. No major court in Europe executed fewer people than the Spanish Inquisition. This was a time, after all, when damaging shrubs in a public garden in London carried the death penalty. Across Europe, executions were everyday events. But not so with the Spanish Inquisition. In its 350-year lifespan only about 4,000 people were put to the stake. Compare that with the witch-hunts that raged across the rest of Catholic and Protestant Europe, in which 60,000 people, mostly women, were roasted. Spain was spared this hysteria precisely because the Spanish Inquisition stopped it at the border. When the first accusations of witchcraft surfaced in northern Spain, the Inquisition sent its people to investigate. These trained legal scholars found no believable evidence for witches' Sabbaths, black magic, or baby roasting. It was also noted that those confessing to witchcraft had a curious inability to fly through keyholes. While Europeans were throwing women onto bonfires with abandon, the Spanish Inquisition slammed the door shut on this insanity. (For the record, the Roman Inquisition also kept the witch craze from infecting Italy.)
    What about the dark dungeons and torture chambers? The Spanish Inquisition had jails, of course. But they were neither especially dark nor dungeon-like. Indeed, as far as prisons go, they were widely considered to be the best in Europe. There were even instances of criminals in Spain purposely blaspheming so as to be transferred to the Inquisition's prisons. Like all courts in Europe, the Spanish Inquisition used torture. But it did so much less often than other courts. Modern researchers have discovered that the Spanish Inquisition applied torture in only 2 percent of its cases. Each instance of torture was limited to a maximum of 15 minutes. In only 1 percent of the cases was torture applied twice and never for a third time.
    The inescapable conclusion is that , by the standards of its time, the Spanish Inquisition was positively enlightened. That was the assessment of most Europeans until 1530. It was then that the Spanish Inquisition turned its attention away from the conversos and toward the new Protestant Reformation. The people of Spain and their monarchs were determined that Protestantism would not infiltrate their country as it had Germany and France. The Inquisition's methods did not change. Executions and torture remained rare. But its new target would forever change its image.
    Modern researchers have discovered that the Spanish Inquisition applied torture in only 2 percent of its cases. Each instance of torture was limited to a maximum of 15 minutes. In only 1 percent of the cases was torture applied twice and never for a third time.
    By the mid-16th century, Spain was the wealthiest and most powerful country in Europe. King Philip II saw himself and his countrymen as faithful defenders of the Catholic Church. Less wealthy and less powerful were Europe's Protestant areas, including the Netherlands, northern Germany, and England. But they did have a potent new weapon: the printing press. Although the Spanish defeated Protestants on the battlefield, they would lose the propaganda war. These were the years when the famous "Black Legend" of Spain was forged. Innumerable books and pamphlets poured from northern presses accusing the Spanish Empire of inhuman depravity and horrible atrocities in the New World. Opulent Spain was cast as a place of darkness, ignorance, and evil. Although modern scholars have long ago discarded the Black Legend, it still remains very much alive today. Quick: Think of a good conquistador.
    Protestant propaganda that took aim at the Spanish Inquisition drew liberally from the Black Legend. But it had other sources as well. From the beginning of the Reformation, Protestants had difficulty explaining the 15-century gap between Christ's institution of His Church and the founding of the Protestant churches. Catholics naturally pointed out this problem, accusing Protestants of having created a new church separate from that of Christ. Protestants countered that their church was the one created by Christ but that it had been forced underground by the Catholic Church. Thus, just as the Roman Empire had persecuted Christians, so its successor, the Roman Catholic Church, continued to persecute them throughout the Middle Ages. Inconveniently, there were no Protestants in the Middle Ages, yet Protestant authors found them anyway in the guise of various medieval heresies. (They were underground, after all.)

    In this light, the medieval Inquisition was nothing more than an attempt to crush the hidden, true church. The Spanish Inquisition, still active and extremely efficient at keeping Protestants out of Spain, was for Protestant writers merely the latest version of this persecution. Mix liberally with the Black Legend, and you have everything you need to produce tract after tract about the hideous and cruel Spanish Inquisition. And so they did.
    The Spanish people loved their Inquisition. That is why it lasted for so long. It stood guard against error and heresy, protecting the faith of Spain and ensuring the favor of God. But the world was changing. In time, Spain's empire faded away. Wealth and power shifted to the north, in particular to France and England. By the late 17th century, new ideas of religious tolerance were bubbling across the coffeehouses and salons of Europe. Inquisitions, both Catholic and Protestant, withered. The Spanish stubbornly held on to theirs, and for that, they were ridiculed. French philosophers like Voltaire saw in Spain a model of the Middle Ages: weak, barbaric, superstitious. The Spanish Inquisition, already established as a bloodthirsty tool of religious persecution, was derided by Enlightenment thinkers as a brutal weapon of intolerance and ignorance. A new, fictional Spanish Inquisition had been constructed, designed by the enemies of Spain and the Catholic Church.
    Because it was both professional and efficient, the Spanish Inquisition kept very good records. Vast archives are filled with them. These documents were kept secret, so there was no reason for scribes to do anything but accurately record every action of the Inquisition. They are a goldmine for modern historians who have plunged greedily into them. Thus far, the fruits of that research have made one thing abundantly clear -- the myth of the Spanish Inquisition has nothing at all to do with the real thing.

    Pious dio el Víctor.

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    Respuesta: The Truth About the Spanish Inquisition

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    The Spanish people loved their Inquisition. That is why it lasted for so long. It stood guard against error and heresy, protecting the faith of Spain and ensuring the favor of God. But the world was changing. In time, Spain's empire faded away.
    Some sentences are, regarding credit, as dangerous as the razor´s edge.

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    Respuesta: The Truth About the Spanish Inquisition

    Of course, it cannot be a hundred percent faultless, but it's not too bad for an apologetic article on the Inquisition. You can't find many in English that are as favorable as this one.

    Nevertheless, it's true that the Inquisition was popular. It kept us from error and heresy and, not only that, as Menéndez y Pelayo said, it also kept us from having on our soil the religious wars that ravaged Europe.

    On the Inquisition being popular:

    Popularidad de la Inquisición

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    Respuesta: The Truth About the Spanish Inquisition

    I can also add that no heretics were to be condemned or subject to any sentences, whatsoever, before been offered at least two chances of renegating their heresies.

    In Portugal, for example, very few burnings (Autos-de-Fé) were actually conducted: the majority of the cases were solved with a more or less forced conversion to cristianity (also a more or less truthfull one) or a forced exile to the country of their choice.

    Espinosa (dutch philosopher) and David Ricardo (english economist), both of portuguese origins, are perfect examples of how the Inquisition, in Portugal as in Spain, was not quite as it's potraited to be by the Black Legend promoters.
    Última edición por Irmão de Cá; 16/02/2009 a las 12:02
    res eodem modo conservatur quo generantur

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    Re: Respuesta: The Truth About the Spanish Inquisition

    The Spanish Inquisition Was a Moderate Court by the Standard of Its Time

    By Ed Condon
    June 27, 2018

    (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

    In Elizabethan and Protestant propaganda, the Spanish Empire figured as a threat to all that was good in the world.

    Wherever politics and the judicial system overlap, there is bound to be controversy. Whether it be the Mueller probe or the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the moment any legal authority appears to be going after someone a little too eagerly, people cry foul. In our pluralistic society, equality before the law is about the closest thing we have to a common article of faith. So it is no surprise that it’s a sensitive issue that can evoke emotive responses.

    A familiar reaction is to accuse someone of behaving like the Spanish Inquisition. As a rhetorical device, it works well. It carries overtones of a thought police, of a tyranny over mind and soul. It conjures up images of dank cellars and sinister monks with red-hot pokers. It is a byword for oppression and abuse dressed up as law.
    Yet while any reasonable person would find a lot not to like about the Spanish Inquisition, much of our popular conception of it is the product of Elizabethan propaganda and gothic fiction. There was a concerted effort by northern (mostly Protestant) European kingdoms to paint the Spanish Empire as constitutionally evil; not just a political, religious, and military rival but an existential threat to all that was good in the world. The Inquisition was the poster child for these efforts, which collectively became known as the Black Legend. Julián Juderías, Jose Alvarez-Juno, and other 20th-century historians have done much to unwind the more cartoonish allegations and understand them as the propaganda campaign they were.
    In fact, examined simply as a functioning court, the Spanish Inquisition was in many ways ahead of its time and a pioneer of many judicial practices we now take for granted.

    Let’s start with the basic legal concept of an “inquisition.” It just means a court of inquiry in which the judges take the lead in directing proceedings in the pursuit of truth, rather than a prosecution-driven adversarial system. Such courts continue to function in many secular jurisdictions today, and there is, frankly, nothing very sinister about it, though it appears alien to those of us raised on American courtroom dramas.

    Because it was a religious court primarily concerned with heresy trials, it has the reputation of being an ecclesiastical thought police run by religious fanatics who trapped innocent laymen with theological technicalities. The Inquisition was actually a reluctant creation of the Church.

    By 1482, Pope Sixtus had publicly regretted allowing the Inquisition to be set up under state supervision. But the procedures the Inquisition developed to counter its own abuse came to outshine those of any comparable court of the time.

    When Pope Sixtus IV granted the Spanish Crown the power to erect the Inquisition in 1478, he was responding to a situation in which Ferdinand and Isabella’s newly unified Kingdom of Spain was seeking to impose cultural and religious uniformity on its people. This was the time of the Reconquista; religion and nationalism were inseparable, and the abuses were terrible. The Alhambra Decree of 1492 expelled any Spanish Jew who would not convert to Christianity. Despite a measure of religious freedom promised in the Treaty of Granada (1491), which saw the end of the last emirate on the peninsula, Islam was effectively outlawed. Pogroms and riots were a part of country life. Those who did convert, especially from the Jewish community, lived in fear of denunciation as “secret Jews” and could have their property seized and their lives ruined. The pope hoped, perhaps naïvely, that by getting directly involved, the Church could bring the situation under control and end the frenzied religious denunciations.

    Instead, while it did stop the pogroms, the religious authority of the Church was hijacked by the Crown. It took some years before the Church could wrest back control.

    Although the institution lasted for centuries, the worst excesses of the Inquisition occurred in these first 30 years, when the Spanish Crown did use it as a means of control and oppression. By 1482, Pope Sixtus had publicly regretted allowing the Inquisition to be set up under state supervision. But the procedures the Inquisition developed to counter its own abuse came to outshine those of any comparable court of the time.

    Tomás de Torquemada, a much more nuanced historical figure than the cartoonish portrayal of him suggests, was put in charge of bringing order and justice to the Inquisition, and he was much more interested in imposing good law than good theology.

    His regulations for the Inquisition of 1498 mandated that inquisitors (judges) be lawyers by training, rather than theologians, and it was not even a requirement that all judges be priests. Such was the legal, rather than theological, weight of proceedings that, in contrast to other courts of the time and for centuries after, cases of witchcraft were treated as grounds for insanity rather than demonic cooperation.

    Popular conception has it that the entire process was fueled by anonymous denunciations and was widely abused for personal score-settling between neighbors and families. There is a lot of truth to that, and the abuse of the Inquisition process by the people led to a huge inflation of cases. But the problems raised by granting initial anonymity to accusers and witnesses were not unmitigated. All accusations went before a panel of expert consultants who determined whether enough proof existed to bring charges. They functioned much like a modern grand jury, which today hears testimony and allegations in secret.

    Once the decision was taken to press charges and an arrest was made, the accused had a number of practical and legal advantages over a defendant in a civil court in Spain, or indeed in the supposedly more enlightened governments of northern Europe, including England.

    Beginning in 1484, everyone brought before the Inquisition had the right to legal representation, either of his own selection or by court appointment if necessary. This was some 300 years before the Sixth Amendment gave the same right to Americans, and it wasn’t until the Napoleonic Code of 1808 that it came to France. English defendants had to wait until the Prisoner’s Counsel Act of 1836.

    The accused were given the opportunity to submit the names of anyone who had a grudge against them or whose testimony could not be relied upon. In one case, a local magistrate submitted the names of all the people he had ever convicted, and the charges against him were dismissed out of hand. The Inquisition followed the canonical procedure of “publishing the acts,” equivalent to discovery in the American system, so that defendants and their lawyers could answer all the evidence laid against them.

    This is all well and good for theory, you might think. Maybe the Inquisition had its rules on paper, but the reality was surely a different thing, and how could we possibly know for sure, anyway? In fact, we know exactly what happened in thousands of cases heard by the Inquisition across Spain over hundreds of years. Because it was a serious court, meticulous case files and court records were kept. Libraries in Toledo, Salamanca, and other cities are home to thousands of such case files. In the second half of the 20th century, Henry Kamen and other historians were given access to them. What they discovered changed the scholarly understanding of the Inquisition.

    So, what of those dank dungeons and hot pokers? Well, for a start, the jails of the Inquisition were universally known to be hygienic and well maintained. They were neither built nor run as places of punishment. The standard of care that inmates received was high enough that prisoners held by the Crown would often petition to be moved to Inquisition jails. There are recorded cases of criminals committing public heresy with the express purpose of being held and tried by the Inquisition, rather than the secular courts.

    But yes, there was torture.

    The use of torture by the Spanish Inquisition can be neither excused nor denied, though it can and should be placed in context. Contrary to the lurid allegations of Elizabethan propaganda, there were no hot pokers, no iron maidens.

    Torture was ubiquitous in courts of the time, and the Inquisition’s use of it, while objectively horrific, was downright progressive when seen in context. The limitations imposed on its use were a means of removing it as a practice.

    Three forms of torture were used by the Inquisition: the strapado (hanging by the wrists), toca (waterboarding, essentially), and porto (also known as the wrack). Bad as these all unanswerably are, they are mild compared to what awaited a defendant in England, where you could be crushed to death, as Margaret Clitherow was, unless you halted the torture by entering a plea. It is also impossible to avoid the observation that the methods of the Inquisition would be remarkably familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase “enhanced interrogation.”

    But unlike civil jurisdictions, and indeed some modern practices, the Inquisition permitted no risk “to life or limb,” meaning “death or permanent injury.” A physician was on hand to ensure that the procedure was halted if he feared lasting damage might be inflicted. Also unlike other courts, in almost all cases the Inquisition authorized torture to last no longer than two 15-minute sessions, with a day between each, for the prisoner to recover — definitely not a standard more recent practitioners have imposed on themselves.

    Moreover, confessions made under torture were inadmissible as evidence. To be of any use, they had to be repeated freely when any threat of further coercion had been removed. You might reasonably ask why bother having torture at all if you cannot use any confession you extract, but this was part of the point: Torture was ubiquitous in courts of the time, and the Inquisition’s use of it, while objectively horrific, was downright progressive when seen in context. The limitations imposed on its use were a means of removing it as a practice. It was a serious leap forward in the legal evolution of Europe, which not so long before had still practiced trial by ordeal.

    Similarly, the common impression remains that the Inquisition was a rolling conveyor of death. Using quantitative historical analysis, scholars, most notably Kamen in The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (now in its fourth edition), estimates the average number of executions from Inquisition trials across Spanish territory in the 16th and 17th centuries at less than three per year: below the rate, by a considerable margin, of any court anywhere else in Europe.

    None of this is to say that the Spanish Inquisition is something to be proud of or remembered fondly. But it isn’t paradoxical to conclude that it was also, by the standards of the time, in many ways superior to almost all other courts. Even in the centuries since, we have at times done worse than the Spanish Inquisition — and that is something no one expects.

    Kontrapoder y Pious dieron el Víctor.

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    Re: Respuesta: The Truth About the Spanish Inquisition

    Libros antiguos y de colección en IberLibro
    The Spanish Inquisition: Fact Versus Fiction | Marvin R. O'Connell.

    "Even while I breathed there came to my nostrils the breath of the vapor of heated iron. A suffocating odor pervaded the prison. A deeper glow settled each moment in the eyes that glared at my agonies. A richer tint of crimson diffused itself over the pictured horrors of blood. There could be no doubt of the design of my tormentors. Oh, most unrelenting! Oh, most demoniac of men! 'Death,' I said, 'any death but that of the pit.'"

    And so on for twenty pages reads the most familiar literary indictment of the wickedness of the Spanish Inquisition. Edgar Allen Poe's short story, "The Pit and the Pendulum," is, to be sure, a piece of fiction, its author a specialist in creating scenes of horror and dread, as the titles of some of his other works suggest: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Haunted Palace," "The Conqueror Worm." Yet Poe's hideous image of the red-hot poker being prepared as an instrument of torture by grinning Spanish sadists–the "most demoniac of men"–did not strain the credulity of his readers a century and a half ago, nor does it today. We may indeed express our abhorrence a little more light-heartedly - when Professor Higgins, in My Fair Lady, wishes to evoke the most frightful of possible alternatives, he sings, "I'd prefer a new edition/Of the Spanish Inquisition," and, with the shivers running up and down the spine, we know exactly what he means.

    At a rather more sophisticated level was the picture drawn by Dostoyevsky who, in The Brothers Karamazov, imagines the Grand Inquisitor, with "his withered face and sunken eyes," in confrontation with Jesus on the streets of Seville, where the Savior has just restored life to a dead child. "The Inquisitor sees everything; he sees them set the coffin down at Jesus' feet, sees the child rise up, and his face darkens. He knits his thick grey brows, and his eyes gleam with a sinister light. He holds out his finger and bids the guards arrest Jesus. And such is his power, so completely are the people cowed into submission and trembling obedience to him, that the crowd immediately makes way for the guards, and in the midst of a deathlike silence they lay hands on Jesus and take him to the Inquisitor who says: 'Tomorrow I shall condemn thee and burn thee at the stake as the worst of heretics.'"

    Once more, suspension of disbelief is not so difficult, because it is a given that the officers of the Spanish Inquisition were so glutted with pride and blood-lust that they would not have stopped at deicide to gain their ends. Does not the very name of Torquemada summon up visions of ruthlessness and cruelty?

    And then of course there is the cinematic conception of the era of the Inquisition, brought to the silver screen in dozens of swashbuckling melodramas, in which the upright, truthful, intelligent, compassionate, handsome, brave Anglo, with his light complexion and buff-colored hair –this last constituent sends a strong ethnic message–crosses swords with the cruel, devious, lustful, foppish, superstitious, cowardly Spaniard with–please notice –his swarthy skin and greasy black hair and mustache. Needless to say, North Atlantic virtue always triumphs over Mediterranean depravity in these contests, Protestant blue-eyed heroism over intrinsically inferior Catholic dark-eyed perfidy, and the audience goes home contented, having seen the Spanish galleon, all afire, sink beneath the waves, while the gallant Erroll Flynn (or someone like him) stands coolly self-possessed on the main deck of his ship, his protective arm around the waist of the beautiful blonde lady he has just rescued from the clutches of villainous Latins.

    These pulp-fiction romances seldom advert directly to the Inquisition; movie moguls make it a rule to keep their plots uncomplicated. But they do trade in a deep-seated prejudice that has been so carefully cultivated over so long a time that it has become an integral part of our culture. It was not only Poe and Dostoyevsky and even Professor Higgins who assumed that the Spanish Inquisition was wicked because it was Spanish; the rest of us, the hoi polloi, concluded the same. To assert that conclusion was enough to establish its truth; no evidence was required and no rebuttal allowed. In one of the most enduring public relations victories ever accomplished, the history of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Spain's Golden Age, was consciously and methodically distorted by what scholars now candidly call "the Black Legend." This collection of bitter fables, with their overtones of bigotry and racism, proves once more–if proof were necessary–that a lie told often enough and convincingly enough will in the end be accepted as gospel. "One of the great conditions of anger and hatred," the wryly cynical Thackeray observed, "is that you must tell and believe lies against the hated object in order to be consistent." The lies in this instance about the Spanish character and about the Catholicism practiced in the Spain of Queen Isabella, St. Teresa of Avila and Cervantes, were told in order to promote a Protestant and particularly an English Protestant ascendancy, which in due course crossed the Atlantic with the colonists who eventually founded the United States; the sad irony is that though any serious commitment to that cause has long since vanished from the old world and the new, the racist and bigoted distortions put on the record in its behalf by the concoctors of the Black Legend have proved to have a life of their own.

    But perhaps the Spanish Inquisition was indeed a wicked institution. If so, that judgment should be made on the basis of those discernible facts an honest examination is able to reveal, and not upon the fevered testimony of self-interested politicians, biased preachers, witless pamphleteers, or–deriving from one or more of these–naive writers of fiction. And, as is the case with any historical reconstruction of a phenomenon now passed away, to understand the contextual framework is a condition for understanding the phenomenon itself. An organization as consequential as the Spanish Inquisition could not have taken shape in a vacuum, nor could its activities have been divorced from the circumstances of its time and place. The same principle therefore holds good in its regard as it does in analyzing other events contemporaneous with the early years of the Inquisition. Thus, for example, we need to know what political and social as well as theological concerns persuaded Queen Elizabeth I of England to treat her Catholic subjects with such barbarity; similarly, we need to recognize that the fanaticism that drove Dutch Calvinists to hang all the priests and vandalize all the churches that fell under their control was not unrelated to a primitive nationalism and even to a primitive capitalism.

    As far as the Spanish Inquisition is concerned, one must look for context to chronology and geography. Chronology first. The Holy Office, as it was popularly called, was founded in 1478 on the strength of a papal rescript requested by the sovereigns of a newly united Spain, the wife and husband, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. For precedent they cited the functioning of the Roman Inquisition during the thirteenth century when, under this rubric, the popes established special circuit courts to investigate and, when possible, to root up various heterodox movements, especially in southern France and northern Italy. These movements–lumped together under the rather sinister-sounding label "Cathari"–had alarmed the lords temporal of the time no less than the lords spiritual, because the Manichaean doctrines and life-style proposed by the Cathari were deemed as subversive of civil well being as of ecclesiastical. Over the course of a hundred years or so the Cathari were pretty well stamped out or driven underground through the cooperative efforts of Church and State. The inquisitors' job had been to establish the juridical facts in each case, and if, as a result, an individual were judged to be an unyielding heretic, the government's job had been to exact punishment from that person, up to and including death.

    Yet in many respects–and here is a truth extremely difficult for us at the end of the twentieth century to comprehend–to speak of "Church and State" during the Middle Ages, and indeed much later, is to draw a distinction without a difference. That the civil and ecclesiastical entities represented essentially separate spheres, that religion should be a strictly private matter left to the choice of each individual, that persons of conflicting religious views or with no religious views at all could live in fruitful harmony–these ideas were unknown during the time the Roman inquisitors were harassing the Albigensians in the south of France, and unknown also when, two centuries later, Ferdinand and Isabella asked for the establishment of an Inquisition unique to Spain. Pope Sixtus IV, in granting their request, explicitly testified to the principle that it was the first duty of kings to nurture and defend the faith of their people, and implicitly he professed what was for him and his contemporaries a truism, that no society could exist without religious uniformity, that–to appropriate a celebrated statement of another era–"a house divided against itself cannot stand." Here was a conviction fully appreciated, incidentally, by the likes of Elizabeth I and the Dutch Calvinists, who gave it full rein in their own persecution-policies.

    The organization of the Spanish Inquisition differed markedly from its Roman predecessor. The former, with its emphasis upon centralization and royal control, reflected the emergence of the nation-state and the responsibility the monarchy now assumed to guarantee religious orthodoxy. Thus the Grand Inquisitor was appointed by the king and answerable to him, with only the nominal approval of the pope. The Inquisitor in turn appointed the five members of the High Council over which he presided; this body, with its swarm of consultants and clerical staff, exercised ultimate power within the Inquisition's competence. It decided all disputed questions and heard all appeals from the lower inquisitorial courts, which by the middle of the sixteenth century numbered nineteen scattered across Spain and several more in Spanish-occupied territories in Italy and America. Without the permission of the High Council no priest or nobleman could be imprisoned. An auto-de-fe, the religious ceremony which included the punishment of convicted heretics and the reconciliation of those who recanted, could not be held anywhere without the sanction of the High Council. Control was also enhanced by the requirement that the lower courts submit to the Council yearly general reports and monthly financial ones.

    As far as procedure was concerned, the Spanish Inquisition pretty much followed the precedent established in the thirteenth century and the models provided by secular tribunals. The legal machinery was put into motion by sworn denunciation of an individual or, on occasion, of a particular village or region. In the latter instance, prior to the formal inquiry a "term of grace" of thirty to forty days was routinely issued, during which period suspected dissidents could recant or prepare their defense. Once accused, a defendant was provided the services of a lawyer, and he could not be examined by the officers of the court without the presence of two disinterested priests. The identity of the witnesses of his alleged crime, however, was not revealed to him, and so he could not confront them. This was a severe disadvantage, even though harsh punishment was meted out to those revealed to have been false accusers. Judges, not juries, decided questions of fact as well as of law, and in effect the Spanish Inquisition combined the functions of investigation, prosecution, and judgment. Indeed, anyone arrested by the Inquisition was presumed guilty until proven innocent, a circumstance very unsettling to us who have enjoyed the blessings of the English common law tradition. Torture, a commonplace with secular jurisdictions, had been forbidden at first in the old Roman Inquisition, but then it had gradually come into use, with the provisos that it be applied only once and that it not threaten life or limb. In Spain these rules were adopted from the start, but early on Sixtus IV, deluged with complaints, protested to the Spanish government that the Inquisition was employing torture too freely. Unhappily the pope's remonstrances fell on deaf ears.

    But to return to the chronological consideration, with a bit of geography thrown in for good measure. In 1478, at the moment the Inquisition was set up, the Christians of the Iberian peninsula had been engaged in a crusade for nearly seven hundred years. The fighting had not been constant, to be sure–it took our enlightened epoch to develop the fine art of total war–but ever since the eighth century, when the Arab Muslims had stormed across the straits of Gibraltar from Africa and with fire and sword had subjugated the peninsula as far north as the Ebro River, the native resistance to their occupation had been constant. And, by fits and starts, with frequent intervals of inactivity, resistance had gradually evolved into counter-attack, into a growing determination to win back what had been lost to the alien invaders. Little by little this relentless process of reconquest–la reconquista–drove the descendants of those invaders, the Moors, ever farther into the south until, in 1478, they had left to them only a small enclave around the city of Granada. The end of the crusade was in sight.

    It would be difficult to exaggerate how profound an impact this extraordinarily long and all-consuming cruzado had upon the formation of Spanish public policy. Comparisons are impossible to draw, because no other Christian people had experienced anything even remotely similar. As suggested above, a Europe-wide consensus had indeed developed during the Middle Ages that religious dissidents could not be tolerated if true religion and harmonious society were to endure. Add to this the universal conviction that heretics adhered to their objectionable opinions not out of conscience but out of bad will, and it comes as no surprise that increasingly stringent laws were enacted throughout Christendom against those who refused to conform. Since such a refusal was judged the worst possible crime, the ultimate penalty for it everywhere was the worst form of capital punishment imaginable, burning at the stake. Though this ferocious sentence was carried out relatively rarely, the prospect of it did act as a deterrent and did induce all except the most stout-hearted to disavow their heterodoxies once brought to light by a judicial process. Still, the troublesome possibility remained that those who had formally recanted might have done so out of fear rather than conversion of mind, and that they continued to practice their subversive heresies in secret, waiting for a more propitious day.

    In the Iberia of the reconquista a scenario of this kind presented a danger profoundly more serious than elsewhere. As the Christians slowly reestablished their hegemony over the peninsula–expressed in the two distinct political entities, Portugal and Spain–the potential antagonists of religious uniformity they were determined to impose were not indigenous eccentrics, as was the case in other European countries (bear in mind that the Protestant Reformation was at this moment still forty years in the future), but a conquered population linked by ties of race and religion to the Muslims living in the principalities of North Africa, which at Gibraltar lay only sixteen watery miles away. Even more ominous from the Spanish point of view was the fact that these so-called barbary states–the modern nations of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia–formed part of a vast imperial system established by the Muslim Turks, a system as powerful and menacing to western Europe as the Soviet bloc was conceived to be in our day. As the reconquista proceeded, therefore, and especially after Granada and the last remnant of Spanish Islam fell to the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, policy-makers had to decide how to treat the Moors and the relatively small but influential Jewish community which, in marked contrast to what our century has witnessed, had flourished within a larger Islamic society. The Christian victors, fearful of Muslim sympathizers in their midst, offered no compromise: Moors and Jews had to accept baptism or face expulsion from the country now defined as entirely Catholic.

    What this decision amounted to, of course, was a policy of forced conversion, something quite incompatible with traditional Catholic teaching. This fact was pointed out by several popes and numerous Spanish theologians over a long period, but the sentiment expressed by one of Ferdinand of Aragon's royal predecessors was the one that prevailed: "The enemies of the cross of Christ and violators of the Christian law are likewise our enemies and the enemies of our kingdom, and ought therefore to be dealt with as such."

    Predictably, however, the stark choice between conformity and exile invited pretense and hypocrisy on the part of those dragooned into a faith not of their own choosing. The Jews and Moors who conformed rather than depart the land in which they and their ancestors had lived for hundreds of years did so with varying measures of reluctance, merging often into downright dissimulation. And this is precisely why the Inquisition was created by the Spanish monarchs: as the etymology of the word implies, the first task of this new judicial body was inquiry, specifically inquiry into the authenticity of the conversion of the Moors and Jews who had come under the sway of those monarchs.

    But once again we must stress the chronological track, because the bloody reputation of the Spanish Inquisition–though it formally existed for more than three centuries–was earned during its first decade and a half, even before, that is, the capture of Granada. During this unhappy period perhaps as many as 2000 persons were burnt as heretics. Though this number is only a small fraction of what the Black Legend routinely alleged, it is nevertheless sobering enough. Almost all those executed were conversos or New Christians, converts, that is, from Judaism who were convicted of secretly practicing their former religion. It should be borne in mind that the Inquisition, as a church-court, had no jurisdiction over Moors and Jews as such. But, ironically, once such persons accepted baptism they became capable of heresy in the technical sense of the word. Thus the early savagery of the Spanish Inquisition contributes another chapter to the sad history of anti-Semitism, motivated on this occasion, however, more by politico-religious expediency than by racial hatred. It was in any event an enormous and unforgivable miscalculation. Far from constituting a danger to the nation, the Jewish conversos of previous decades had already been admirably blended into the larger community. As Professor William Monter has pointed out, the New Christians "represent the first known large-scale and long-term assimilation of Jews into any Christian society. Although the process included many painful adaptations, some severe backlash and even a decade of brutal persecution under the Inquisition, it ended with their general integration into Spanish society. Their descendants quietly flouted racist codes and contributed to the vibrant Catholicism of Golden Age Spain; St. Teresa of Avila was the granddaughter of a New Christian penanced by the Inquisition."

    It seems as though the violence with which the Spanish Inquisition began its tenure exhausted or perhaps shamed it into a moderation which the purveyors of the Black Legend stonily ignore. But the facts cannot be gainsaid. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when Spanish sovereignty extended from Italy to most of Latin America, on average less than three persons a year were executed by the Inquisition, which was formally constituted in all those places as well as at home. Or, to give the Spaniards the benefit of the doubt, perhaps as the bitter struggle of the reconquista gradually faded from their collective memory, even as the Muslim threat itself receded, they exercised a restraint consistent with their principles. However that may be, for my part I am glad there is no longer in existence an Inquisition that might have me arrested on the basis of charges lodged by persons unknown to me, as happened to St. Ignatius Loyola. Yet as one who has lived through most of a century in which cruelty and atrocity and oppression have reached a pitch, quantitatively and qualitatively, inconceivable to our ancestors–inconceivable even to Torquemada–I think a measure of discretion would be appropriate when bemoaning the wickedness of the Spanish Inquisition, more discretion anyway than that exercised by Poe and Dostoyevsky.

    •This article originally appeared in the November/December 1996 issue of Catholic Dossier.

    Marvin R. O'Connell is professor emeritus of history at the University of Notre Dame and a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul.

    He is the author of John Ireland and the American Catholic Church (St. Paul, 1988), a prize-winning biography of the redoubtable John Ireland, and several other books, including Blaise Pascal: Reasons of the Heart (Eerdmans, 1997).

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