No other country in popedom was at that time more deeply imbued with disaffection of the doctrines and worship of the Church of Rome.
Continuing Spanish Inquisition Established,
with a selection from History of the Inquisition by William H. Rule published in 1868. This selection is presented in 6 installments, each one 5 minutes long.
Previously in Spanish Inquisition Established.
During the persecutions of the fifteenth century, while Ferdinand and Isabella made progress in reconquering the kingdom of Granada from the Moors, and Mahometanism, like Judaism, was declining, the Moriscoes, a middle class, resembling the New Christians, and not less dangerous to Romanism, also challenged the powers of the Inquisition. No other country in popedom was at that time more deeply imbued with disaffection of the doctrines and worship of the Church of Rome. Then in 1477, one Brother Philip de’ Barberi, a Sicilian inquisitor, came to the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, who were sovereigns of Sicily, to solicit the confirmation of some privileges recently granted to the Holy Office in that island; and, having observed the peril of the Church within the enlarged and united dominions of “the Catholic kings” under whose rule nearly all Spain was comprehended, advised the creation of one undivided court of inquisition, like that of Sicily, as the only means of defense against the maranos, Moriscoes, Jews, and Mussulmans.
The advice was quickly taken. First of all, the Dominicans, and after them the dignitaries of the secular clergy, crowded round the throne to pray for a reformation of the Inquisition after the Sicilian model. They appealed to the greed of King Ferdinand by offering him the proceeds of a confiscation, which might be rapidly effected, in pursuance of laws of the Church to that intent provided. They appealed to the piety of Queen Isabella, and were careful that tales of Jewish murders and Jewish desecrations should be poured incessantly into the royal ear. Ferdinand had no scruple. He sincerely prayed the Pope to sanction such a measure, and, swiftly as couriers could bring it, came the desired bull. Isabella could not blame the zeal of priests and monks; for she, too, was a zealot. She could not gainsay the urgency of the nuncio. She could not quench in her husband’s bosom the thirst of gold. But she had brought half the kingdom as her dower; and therefore some deference was due to her conscience and judgment, and both in conscience and judgment she desired gentler measures. During two or three years her orator and confessor wrote books, and preachers were permitted to publish arguments, and disputants to enter into conferences, for the conviction of the Jews.
At her majesty’s request, Cardinal Mendoza issued a constitution in Seville, in 1478, containing “the form that should be observed with a Christian from the day of his birth, as well in the sacrament of baptism as in all other sacraments which he ought to receive, and of what he should be taught, and ought to do and believe as a faithful Christian, every day, and at all times of his life, until the day of his death. And he ordered this to be published in all the churches of the city, and put in tables in each parish, as a settled constitution. He also published a summary of what curates and clerks should teach their parishioners, and what the parishioners should observe and show to their children.” Thus does Hernando del Pulgar, in his Chronicle of the Catholic Sovereigns, describe what some too hastily call a catechism. It was merely a standard of things to be believed and done, set forth by authority. The King and Queen also, not the Cardinal, commanded “some friars, clerks, and other religious persons to teach the people.” But no true Jew would let himself be taught that idolatry is not damnable; and even the less discouraging issues of controversy with the vacillating or the ignorant were not honestly reported.
The constitution of Cardinal Mendoza and the harangues of the friars were ineffectual, as well they might be, for the Jews knew that the Christians had a sacred book, said to be written by divine inspiration, as well as the Law of Moses; and if that book was not put into their hands, they could scarcely be expected to believe a religion whose chief written authority was kept out of sight. That it was, indeed, kept out of sight was undeniable; and the notorious Alfonso de Castro, chaplain of Philip II, boasted in his book against heresies that there was “an edict of the most illustrious and Catholic sovereigns of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, in which, under the severest penalties, they forbade anyone to translate the holy Scriptures into a vulgar language, or to have any such version in his possession. For they were afraid lest any occasion of error should be given to the people over whom God had made them governors.” The clergy maintained that conversion to the truth by argument was impossible, and, at their instance, the bull was no longer kept in reserve, but was published in 1480.
The Queen’s trial of humanity was ended; but a question of policy remained. The King and Queen remembered that they had an interest in Spain as well as the Pope, but they scarcely knew how that interest could be guarded if the inquisitors were allowed absolute power over the persons and property of their subjects. To have proposed lay assessors and open court would have provoked a quarrel with the Pope, then powerful enough to raise Europe in arms against them; therefore they modestly requested no more than that some priests nominated by the King should be associated with some others nominated by the Pope; or that the King should name all, and the Pope confirm his nominations. The “Catholic sovereigns” calculated that nominees of Rome would, of course, prefer the rights of the Church to those of the crown, but they fancied, or they wished to fancy, that priests of their own choice would prefer their interests to those of a stranger. This was an illusion, and therefore Rome made little difficulty; and after due correspondence, and some changes, the Supreme Council of the Spanish Inquisition was constituted thus:
Inquisitor-general — Friar Thomas de Torquemada, of whom Llorente says that it was hardly possible that there could have been another man so capable of fulfilling the intentions of King Ferdinand, by multiplying confiscations; those of the court of Rome, by propagating their jurisdictional and pecuniary maxims; and those of the projectors of the Inquisition, by infusing terror into the people by public executions.
Three King’s counsellors — Don Alonso Carillo, a bishop-elect, with Sancho Valasquez de Cuellar and Poncio de Valencia, doctors of civil law. In matters relating to royal power they were to have a definite vote; but in affairs of spiritual jurisdiction they could only be suffered to offer an opinion, inasmuch as a spiritual power resided in the chief inquisitor alone.
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