Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Spanish Inquisition-History_Documentary

This article acknowledges a distinction between the Medieval Church and the Church of today but nevertheless documents the actions of the Roman Catholic Church and the Monarchy of Spain, sometimes in critical contexts, in the belief that the difficult lessons of history should be remembered, not relived, and that the Spanish Inquisition is a good historical case study, for example, of the dangers inherent in mixing Church and State. The Spanish Inquisition was a legally constituted court decreed by Sixtus IV's Papal Bull and implemented under Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile beginning in 1478. As Christian European monarchs regained control of Spain from Muslim North Africans (see Introduction, below), the Christian Monarchy gradually imposed and enforced certain legal restrictions reflecting rigid religious intolerance and provincialism or racism. There came a time when Spaniards who were not Catholics were not allowed into any of the major professions. Similarly, non-Catholics were forbidden from civil service by royal decree. Other legal and property rights depended on being baptized into the State Religion (Catholicism) as did entrance into schools and general social standing. Ferdinand and the Vatican used these tactics to assert total control over Spanish society and to gain converts for Roman Christianity. The Crown’s investment in gaining converts was such that it planned elaborate, conversion-inspiring events like the Disputation at Tortosa in 1413. Many Muslims and Jews in Spain went along with the Crown in order to keep or get jobs, be considered part of Spanish society or simply to comply with the obvious wishes of the government.
There is no doubt that many who converted had no real affinity for Christianity (or for that matter the Pope). Right or wrong, many Jews and Muslims at the time viewed Christianity as an extension of older, nature-based religions which embraced polytheism. The Jews had been persecuted by the Romans long before the Empire was Christian and may have made less of a distinction for that reason. Many conversos were secular by upbringing and had little or no connection to their abandoned religions either. But many who had converted during and after the massacres of 1391 did it simply to avoid death (see Context, below) and had held onto what was, by 1478, more than a thousand years of Jewish culture and tradition in Spain.
The Crown and the Vatican were outraged by the idea of converts following non-Christian ways of life in the dark shelter of their own heretical homes. There was also a realization in Spain and Rome that large amounts of wealth had been looted in 1468 and 1473 (see below) along with concern that those proceeds should have gone to the government and the Church. Certain behaviors (some actual religious practices - others created by the Inquisitors) were labeled by the Church as “Judaising” and were strictly prohibited under punishment of death. As of 1478, any convert suspected or accused (however haphazardly) of Judaising was tried and put through an “act of faith” (auto da fe), the result of which was always one form of horrible punishment or another. None of the accused was found innocent - the only two possible outcomes of the Church’s would-be trials were guilt by admission and guilt with denial, the latter being cause for Church and State sponsored execution. Certain Church historians have recently asserted that anti-Semitism was not one of the main motivators for Rome or Spain, pointing out that the Inquisition only targeted converted Jews accused of Judaising, not Jews who refused to convert. This argument seems less convincing in view of Ferdinand’s expulsion of the Jews (including and especially the ones who never converted) from the country of Spain in 1492. Any Jew who had not converted and did not leave Spain was thereafter legally executed by the Crown with the Pope’s knowledge and approval. Most historians would agree that practicing Jews had all left Spain by early August of 1492 and that those accused of heresy thereafter were people who a) had money and cool.gif could be accused of having a Jewish or Muslim ancestor, whether it was true or not.
The Inquisition was removed during Napoleonic rule (1808–1812), but reinstituted when Ferdinand VII of Spain recovered the throne. It was officially ended on 15 July 1834. Schoolmaster Cayetano Ripoli, garroted to death in Valencia on July 26, 1826 (allegedly for teaching Deist principles), was the last person executed by the Spanish Inquisition.


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