Today’s installment concludes Spanish Inquisition Established,
the name of our combined selection from William H. Rule and James Balmes. The concluding installment, by James Balmes from European Civilization: Protestantism and Catholicity Compared in Their Effects on the Civilization of Europe, was published in 1850.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed nine thousand words from great works of history. Congratulations!
Previously in Spanish Inquisition Established.
Moreover, it is not to be supposed that the appeals admitted at Rome, and by virtue of which the lot of the accused was improved, were founded on errors of form and injustice committed in the application of the law. If the accused had recourse to Rome, it was not always to demand reparation for an injustice, but because they were sure of finding indulgence. We have a proof of this in the considerable number of Spanish refugees convicted at Rome of having fallen into Judaism. Two hundred fifty of them were found at one time, yet there was not one capital execution. Some penances were imposed on them, and, when they were absolved, they were free to return home without the least mark of ignominy. This took place at Rome in 1498.
It is a remarkable thing that the Roman Inquisition was never known to pronounce the execution of capital punishment, although the apostolic see was occupied during that time by popes of extreme rigor and severity in all that relates to the civil administration. We find in all parts of Europe scaffolds prepared to punish crimes against religion; scenes which sadden the soul were everywhere witnessed. Rome is an exception to the rule — Rome, which it has been attempted to represent as a monster of intolerance and cruelty. It is true that the popes have not preached, like Protestants, universal toleration; but facts show the difference between popes and Protestants. The popes, armed with a tribunal of intolerance, have not spilled a drop of blood; Protestants and philosophers have shed torrents. What advantage is it to the victim to hear his executioners proclaim toleration? It is adding the bitterness of sarcasm to his punishment.
The conduct of Rome in the use which she made of the Inquisition is the best apology of Catholicity against those who attempt to stigmatize her as barbarous and sanguinary. In truth, what is there in common between Catholicity and the excessive severity employed in this place or that, in the extraordinary situation in which many rival races were placed, in the presence of danger which menaced one of them, or in the interest which the kings had in maintaining the tranquillity of their states and securing their conquests from all danger?
I will not enter into a detailed examination of the conduct of the Spanish Inquisition with respect to Judaizing Christians; and I am far from thinking that the rigor which it employed against them was preferable to the mildness recommended and displayed by the popes. What I wish to show here is that rigor was the result of extraordinary circumstances — the effect of the national spirit and of the severity of customs in Europe at that time. Catholicity cannot be reproached with excesses committed for these different reasons. Still more, if we pay attention to the spirit which prevails in all the instructions of the popes relating to the Inquisition, if we observe their manifest inclination to range themselves on the side of mildness, and to suppress the marks of ignominy with which the guilty, as well as their families, were stigmatized, we have a right to suppose that, if the popes had not feared to displease the kings too much, and to excite divisions which might have been fatal, their measures would have been carried still further. If we recollect the negotiations which took place with respect to the noisy affair of the claims of the Cortes of Aragon, we shall see to which side the court of Rome leaned.
As we are speaking of intolerance with regard to the Judaizers, let us say a few words as to the disposition of Luther toward the Jews. Does it not seem that the pretended reformer, the founder of independence of thought, the furious declaimer against the oppression and tyranny of the popes, should have been animated with the most humane sentiments toward that people? No doubt the eulogists of this chieftain of Protestantism ought to think thus also. I am sorry for them; but history will not allow us to partake of this delusion. According to all appearances, if the apostate monk had found himself in the place of Torquemada, the Judaizers would not have been in a better position. What, then, was the system advised by Luther, according to Seckendorff, one of his apologists? “Their synagogues ought to be destroyed, their houses pulled down, their prayer-books, the Talmud, and even the books of the Old Testament to be taken from them; their rabbis ought to be forbidden to teach, and be compelled to gain their livelihood by hard labor.” The Inquisition, at least, did not proceed against the Jews, but against the Judaizers; that is, against those who, after being converted to Christianity, relapsed into their errors, and added sacrilege to their apostasy by the external profession of a creed which they detested in secret, and which they profaned by the exercise of their old religion. But Luther extended his severity to the Jews themselves; so that, according to his doctrines, no reproach can be made against the sovereigns who expelled the Jews from their dominions.
The Moors and the Moriscoes no less occupied the attention of the Inquisition at that time; and all that has been said on the subject of the Jews may be applied to them with some modifications. They were also an abhorred race — a race which had been contended with for eight centuries. When they retained their religion, the Moors inspired hatred; when they abjured it, mistrust; the popes interested themselves in their favor also in a peculiar manner. We ought to remark a bull issued in 1530, which is expressed in language quite evangelical: it is there said that the ignorance of these nations is one of the principal causes of their faults and errors; the first thing to be done to render their conversion solid and sincere was, according to the recommendation contained in this bull, to endeavor to enlighten their minds with sound doctrine.
It will be said that the Pope granted to Charles V the bull which released him from the oath taken in the Cortes of Saragossa in the year 1519, an oath by which he had engaged not to make any change with respect to the Moors; whereby, it is said, the Emperor was enabled to complete their expulsion. But we must observe that the Pope for a long time resisted that concession; and that if he at length complied with the wishes of the Emperor, it was only because he thought that the expulsion of the Moors was indispensable to secure the tranquillity of the kingdom. Whether this was true or not, the Emperor, and not the Pope, was the better judge; the latter, placed at a great distance, could not know the real state of things in detail. Moreover, it was not the Spanish monarch alone who thought so; it is related that Francis I, when a prisoner at Madrid, one day conversing with Charles V, told him that tranquility would never be established in Spain if the Moors and Moriscoes were not expelled.
This ends our selections on Spanish Inquisition Established by two of the most important authorities of this topic:
- History of the Inquisition by William H. Rule published in 1868.
- European Civilization: Protestantism and Catholicity Compared in Their Effects on the Civilization of Europe by James Balmes published in 1850.
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