The history of the Inquisition at that time is full of contests between the kings and popes; and we constantly find, on the part of the holy see, a desire to restrain the Inquisition within the bounds of justice and humanity.
Continuing Spanish Inquisition Established,
our selection from European Civilization: Protestantism and Catholicity Compared in Their Effects on the Civilization of Europe by James Balmes published in 1850. The selection is presented in 3 installments, each one 5 minutes long.
Previously in Spanish Inquisition Established.
In later times an immense number of Jews were converted to the Christian religion; but the hatred of the people was not extinguished thereby, and mistrust followed these converts into their new state. It is very probable that a great number of these conversions were hardly sincere, as they were partly caused by the sad position in which the Jews who continued in Judaism were placed. In default of conjectures founded on reason in this respect, we will regard as a sufficient corroboration of our opinion the multitude of Judaizing Christians who were discovered as soon as care was taken to find out those who had been guilty of apostasy. However, this may be, it is certain that the distinction between New and Old Christians was introduced; the latter denomination was a title of honor, and the former a mark of ignominy; the converted Jews were contemptuously called maranos (“impure men,” “pigs”). With more or less foundation, they were accused of horrible crimes. In their dark assemblies they committed, it was said, atrocities which could hardly be believed for the honor of humanity. For example, it was said that, to revenge themselves on the Christians and in contempt of religion, they crucified Christian children, taking care to choose for the purpose the greatest day among Christian solemnities. There is the often-repeated history of the knight of the house of Guzman, who, being hidden one night in the house of a Jew whose daughter he loved, saw a child crucified at the time when the Christians celebrated the institution of the sacrifice of the eucharist. Besides infanticide, there were attributed to the Jews sacrileges, poisonings, conspiracies, and other crimes. That these rumors were generally believed by the people is proved by the fact that the Jews were forbidden by law to exercise the professions of doctor, surgeon, barber, and tavern-keeper; this shows what degree of confidence was placed in their morality. It is useless to stay to examine the foundations for these sinister accusations. We are not ignorant how far popular credulity will go, above all when it is under the influence of excited feelings, which makes it view all things in the same light. It is enough for us to know that these rumors circulated everywhere and with credit, to understand what must have been the public indignation against the Jews, and consequently how natural it was that authority, yielding to the impulse of the general mind, should be urged to treat them with excessive rigor.
The situation in which the Jews were placed is sufficient to show that they might have attempted to act in concert to resist the Christians; what they did after the death of St. Peter Arbues shows what they were capable of doing on other occasions. The funds necessary for the accomplishment of the murder — the pay of the assassins, and the other expenses required for the plot — were collected by means of voluntary contributions imposed on themselves by all the Jews of Aragon. Does not this show an advanced state of organization, which might have become fatal if it had not been watched?
In alluding to the death of St. Peter Arbues, I wish to make an observation on what has been said on this subject as proving the unpopularity of the establishment of the Inquisition in Spain. What more evident proof, we shall be told, can you have than the assassination of the inquisitor? Is it not a sure sign that the indignation of the people was at its height and that they were quite opposed to the Inquisition? Would they otherwise have been hurried into such excesses? If by “the people” you mean the Jews and their descendants, I will not deny that the establishment of the Inquisition was indeed very odious to them, but it was not so with the rest of the nation. The event we are speaking of gave rise to a circumstance which proves just the reverse. When the report of the death of the inquisitor was spread through the town, they went in crowds in pursuit of the New Christians, so that a bloody catastrophe would have ensued had not the young Archbishop of Saragossa, Alphonsus of Aragon, presented himself to the people on horseback, and calmed them by the assurance that all the rigor of the laws should fall on the heads of the guilty. Was the Inquisition as unpopular as it has been represented? and will it be said that its adversaries were the majority of the people? Why, then, could not the tumult of Saragossa have been avoided in spite of all the precautions which were no doubt taken by the conspirators, at that time very powerful by their riches and influence?
At the time of the greatest rigor against the Judaizing Christians, there is a fact worthy of attention. Persons accused, or threatened with the pursuit of the Inquisition, took every means to escape the action of that tribunal: they left the soil of Spain and went to Rome. Would those who imagine that Rome has always been the hot-bed of intolerance, the firebrand of persecution, have imagined this? The number of causes commenced by the Inquisition, and summoned from Spain to Rome, is countless, during the first fifty years of the existence of that tribunal; and it must be added that Rome always inclined to the side of indulgence. I do not know that it would be possible to cite one accused person who, by appealing to Rome, did not ameliorate his condition. The history of the Inquisition at that time is full of contests between the kings and popes; and we constantly find, on the part of the holy see, a desire to restrain the Inquisition within the bounds of justice and humanity. The line of conduct prescribed by the court of Rome was not always followed as it ought to have been. Thus we see the popes compelled to receive a multitude of appeals, and mitigate the lot that would have befallen the appellants if their cause had been definitely decided in Spain. We also see the Pope name the judge of appeal, at the solicitation of the Catholic sovereigns, who desired that causes should be finally decided in Spain: the first of these judges was Inigo Manrique, Archbishop of Seville. Nevertheless, at the end of a short time, the same Pope, in a bull of August 2, 1483, said that he had received new appeals, made by a great number of the Spaniards of Seville, who had not dared to address themselves to the judge of appeal for fear of being arrested. Such was then the excitement of the public mind; such was at that time the necessity of preventing injustice or measures of undue severity. The Pope added that some of those who had had recourse to his justice had already received the absolution of the apostolical penitentiary, and that others were about to receive it; he afterward complained that indulgences granted to divers accused persons had not been sufficiently respected at Seville; in fine, after several other admonitions, he observed to Ferdinand and Isabella that mercy toward the guilty was more pleasing to God than the severity which it was desired to use; and he gave the example of the good shepherd following the wandering sheep. He ended by exhorting the sovereigns to treat with mildness those who voluntarily confessed their faults, desiring them to allow them to reside at Seville or in some other place they might choose; and to allow them the enjoyment of their property, as if they had not been guilty of the crime of heresy.
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