This series has nine easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Idea of Religious Conformity in Spain.
Prior to the twelfth century the church authorities had been content with defining heresy, while the treatment of heretics was left to secular magistrates. But the spread of heresy at the end of the twelfth century caused the episcopal authorities to look for some occasion for enlarging their prerogatives. In 1204 Pope Innocent III appointed a papal delegate with authority to judge and punish misbelievers. From this germ sprung the Holy Office, commonly known as the Inquisition.
This papal act met with some opposition from the bishops, upon whose prerogatives it encroached; and it provoked rebellion among those against whom it was directed, the Albigenses of Southern France, whose doctrines were spreading into Italy. In 1208 Innocent began a crusade against them, which was led by Arnold of Citeaux and Simon de Montfort, and proved a bloody war of extermination, lasting several years.
Meanwhile the papacy gradually proceeded in the design of creating a tribunal under its own direct control. Such a tribunal was soon practically instituted. Its leading spirit was St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order of preaching friars, but the title of Inquisitor was not yet adopted at the time of his death, in 1221. St. Dominic, however, is with good reason regarded as the founder of the Inquisition.
After the death of St. Dominic the Inquisition gradually assumed a more definite and avowed character, and its repressive hand, inflicting terrible punishments upon accused heretics, was soon felt throughout Southern Europe, and later in the Netherlands, the order of St. Dominic at first furnishing its principal agents.
But later the Inquisition entered upon another stage, under Spanish direction, through a specific organization, practically independent of papal or royal control, though acting under the sanction of both church and state. It became “the most formidable of irresponsible engines in the annals of religious institutions.” Two points of view–Protestant and Catholic–are here presented of the Spanish history of the Holy Office.
The selections are from:
- 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.
There’s 6 installments by William H. Rule and 3 installments by James Balmes.
William H. Rule was a British writer and a Methodist missionary. His mission field and some say his “obsession” was Spain. He spent his life starting schools and teaching there.
James Balmes was Spanish and a Catholic priest and philosopher. His writings were famous for supporting the Catholic Church as a positive influence on history.
We begin with William H. Rule.
“Better and happier luck for Spain” — I translate the words of Mariana — “was the establishment in Castile, which took place about this time, of a new and holy tribunal of severe and grave judges, for the purpose of making inquest and chastising heretical depravity and apostasy, judges other than the bishops, on whose charge and authority this office was anciently incumbent. For this intent the Roman pontiffs gave them authority, and order was given that the princes should help them with their favor and arm. These judges were called ‘inquisitors,’ because of the office which they exercised of hunting out and making inquest, a custom now very general in Italy, France, Germany, and also in the kingdom of Aragon. Castile, henceforth, would not suffer any nation to go beyond her in the desire which she always had to punish such enormous and wicked excesses. We find mention, before this, of some inquisitors who discharged this function, but not in the manner and force of those who followed them.
The chief author and instrument of this salutary grant was the Cardinal of Spain (Mendoza), who had seen that, in consequence of the great liberty of past years, and from the mingling of Moors and Jews with Christians in all sorts of conversation and trade, many things went out of order in the kingdom. With that liberty it was impossible that some of the Christians should not be infected. Many more, leaving the religion which they had voluntarily embraced as converts from Judaism, again apostatized and returned to their old superstition — an evil which prevailed more in Seville than in any other part. In that city, therefore, secret searches were first made, and they severely punished those whom they found guilty. If their delinquency was considerable after having kept them long time imprisoned, and after having tormented them, they burned them. If it was light, they punished the offenders, with the perpetual dishonor of their family. Of not a few they confiscated the goods, and condemned them to imprisonment for life. On most of them they put a sambenito, which is a sort of scapulary of yellow color, with a red St. Andrew’s cross, that they might go marked among their neighbors, and bear a signal that should affright and scare by the greatness of the punishment and of the disgrace; a plan which experience has shown to be very salutary, although, at first, it seemed very grievous to the natives.”
Cardinal Mendoza might have been an instrument of establishing the new tribunal in Spain, but no author was wanted for that work. Pope Gregory IX, fit successor of Innocent III, had completed in Spain, as in the county of Toulouse and kingdom of France, the scheme which his uncle Innocent began. By a bull, dated May 26, 1232, he appointed Dominican friars inquisitors in Aragon, and forthwith proceeded to confer the same benefit on the kingdoms of Navarre, Castile, and Portugal; Granada being in possession of the Moors. Ten years later, in a council at Tarragona, the chief technicalities of the Spanish Inquisition were settled. At the invitation of Peter, Archbishop of Tarragona, Raymund of Peñaforte, the Pope’s penitentiary, presided. The definitions of the council are notable for the determination they evidence to conduct the affairs of the tribunal with entire legal precision and formality. The “vocabulary” was now settled, and one has only to turn to the Acts of the Council of Tarragona to find the exact meaning of “heretic, believer, suspected, simple, vehement, most vehement, favorer, concealer, receiver, receptacle, defender, abettor, relapsed.”
As everyone may well know, no inconsiderable part of the Spanish population consisted of Jews, many of whose ancestors had taken refuge in that country, or had settled there for purposes of commerce, ages before the birth of our Lord, and their number had been increased from time to time, in consequence of imperial edicts which drove them from Italy, or by the attractions of honor and wealth in Spain. They were the most industrious and therefore the most wealthy people in those kingdoms, and had possessed great influence. Their learned men occupied important stations as physicians, agents of government, and even officers of state; while the “New Christians,” or Jews professedly converted to Christianity, were intermarried with the highest families in Spain, and all this had taken place in spite of the enmity of the clergy, popular bigotry, and the adverse legislation of cortes or parliaments. But the wealth which procured Jews and New Christians so much worldly influence became the occasion of great suffering. The “Old Christians,” being less industrious, and therefore less affluent, were frequently their debtors. And although usury was checked by legislators, who dreaded its pressure on themselves, and debts were often repudiated, the Jews maintained their position of creditors; and, as the Cartilla says, creditors are often unreasonable persons, or, at least, are considered to be such. Christians of pure blood, therefore, finding themselves involved in long reckonings, became increasingly impatient, and, under a cloak of zeal for the Catholic religion, were incessantly embroiling them with the magistracy or stirring up the populace against them.
James Balmes begins here.
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