Spanish Inquisitionby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Trace the Spanish Inquisition to point out the causes, goals, extent, and results of the persecution over the centuries.
The Spainsh Inquisition persecuted Christians which unintentionally led to the spread of Christianity.
Particulary following the Protestant Reformation, the Inquisition drove Christians away from Catholic held regions thereby focing the gosple message into other lands.
The Spanish Inquisition
Throughout history, Christianity has been outlawed, mandated, or passively allowed. When we think of persecution for faith, we often think of Nero and Constantine and emperors “way back then.” Or you might even think of the Asian countries today where supposedly Christianity is illegal (but very few Christians here think of doing anything about it). But in order to learn from the past to improve the present and future, we must look at more than the persecutions “way back.” It’s happened all throughout time, and we must specifically take a look together at one episode in history, the Spanish Inquisition.
Some people have never heard about it, while some may have learned in school that Ferdinand and Isabella simply persecuted non-Christians. A closer examination, however, will lend us the realization that the roots of the Spanish Inquisition go far deeper than that, and its manifestations still play a role in history today.
What is an Inquisition? 1
An inquisition, in a general sense, is severe examination or questioning. With regard to the officially mandated Inquisitions, however, an Inquisition (capitalized), is “a former Roman Catholic tribunal for the discovery and punishment of heresy; an investigation conducted with little regard for individual rights.” Not only did history’s Inquisitions severely question an individual in order to detect heresy, but the Inquisitors violated the person’s rights in doing so.
A Bit of Background 2
With the marriage of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile in 1469, Spain was united. When they recaptured the Islamic Spanish city of Granada, Ferdinand and Isabella earned the titles of Catholic King and Queen. In Europe during that time period, it was the general belief that there had to be religious peace in order to attain political peace. This was especially important in Spain, as Spain was the most heterogeneous country in Europe in the 15th century.
Throughout the 1400’s, many Jews and Muslims left Spain to escape persecution, and many others were forcefully driven away. Some Jews, however, were baptized into the Christian faith in order to not be condemned as heretics. Unfortunately, for Ferdinand and Isabella, this was not enough. Suspecting that many were converting to Christianity only nominally, Ferdinand pressured Pope Sixtus IV into issuing a papal bull, allowing an Inquisition. On one occasion the pope attempted to withdraw the papal bull, sensing it was a little overzealous. The pope even wrote, “In Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, and Catalonia the Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls but by lust for wealth. Many true and faithful Christians, on the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves, and other lower and even less proper persons, have without any legitimate proof been thrust into secular prisons, tortured and condemned as relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and property and handed over to the secular arm to be executed, to the peril of souls, setting a pernicious example, and causing disgust to many.” Ferdinand angrily rejected the pope at this point, and the Inquisition was then free from papal authority and strictly stemmed from the authority of the Spanish Monarchy. Ironically, it is still considered the Catholic Church’s greatest sins, though the Church had very little to do with it.
The Inquisition At Its Peak 3
As historian J.H. Elliot wrote, "Spanish society drove itself on a ruthless, ultimately self-defeating quest for an unattainable purity."2 The Inquisitors narrowed the acceptable faith down further, beginning to condemn protestants as heretics later in the 1600s. Before that, however, in 1483, Ferdinand appointed Tomas de Torquemeda, a ruthless man, as the head Inquisitor. These first 15 years saw more deaths than any other time under any other Inquisition. It is said that 2000 “converts” were burned at the stake. Though these “converts” accepted the faith, they were condemned as heretics for their ignorance of the faith.
Though some claim that the Inquisition heavily relied on dark torture chambers, some accounts say the prisoners were relatively well-off, in comparison with the “criminals” of the day who stepped on the king’s shrubbery. Because the European court systems were so strong and forceful in the 15th and 16th century, it is difficult to say just how bad the Inquisition itself was. In fact, Crisis Magazine even wrote, “No major court in Europe executed fewer people than the Spanish Inquisition.” Contradictory accounts lead to much confusion on this. What we do know, however, is that many were ruthlessly burned at the stake.
The Inquisition’s Effects 4
Ironically, and what few people today know, is that much of Spain was in support of the Inquisition. This is, in part, due to the fact that much of Spain was Catholic and thus was not affected much by the Inquisition, so some had no reason to be against it. The Inquisition also brought about a forceful, yet stable, government in Spain, which still holds true today.
On the other hand, however, it hindered the spread of the Gospel. Jews were forced to flee Spain, while those who “converted” to Christianity were burned at the stake for ignorance. This gave Christianity a bad name, as if the political leaders could control what happened between a person and God (i.e, their “conversions”). Nevertheless, we can trust that the Inquisition helped to lay the foundation for God’s redemptive work in Spain today.
As stated earlier, people tell different stories of what really happened. Some say it was ruthless, others say it was no big deal. The truth of the matter is, however, that “Christians” and “non-Christians” (whatever amount) were persecuted for their faith. Some blame Ferdinand and Isabella, some blame the Church. Whatever we choose to think, we must trust that the Inquisition is all a part of God’s redemption plan.
Dave Hunt responds to criticism of his death count as reported in A Woman Rides the Beast. He has strong documentary evidence, particularly from Canon Llorente, Secretary to the Inquisition in Madrid, that "in Spain alone the number of condemned exceeded 3 million, with about 300,000 burned at the stake."
Especially criticized is my statement that millions of true Christians were
killed by Rome in the 1,000 years before the Reformation.
Answer: You refer to "the Spanish branch of the Inquisition"-an admission that there were other inquisitions also. In all, the various inquisitions lasted about 600 years-and I didn't even deal with them. You don't like my figures for Spain. I didn't even mention the 30,000 "secret Jews" (i.e., Jews accused of only pretending to convert) killed in Spain (See The International Jerusalem Post, April 16, 2004). The Spanish Inquisition went as far as Holland, where more than 30,000 were killed. My wife's ancestors were Dutch Mennonites who fled the Inquisition in Holland. In France, 70,000-100,000 Huguenots were slaughtered in one event known as St. Bartholomew's massacre, beginning the night of August 24, 1572, and lasting about a week. The Pope (Gregory XIII) had a medal struck of an angel exterminating the Huguenots with a sword and commissioned the Italian artist Vasari to paint a mural in commemoration, a painting that still exists in the Vatican. Another 200,000 or more Huguenots were killed in other massacres, and from 500,000-1,000,000 fled France. We have found their descendants as far away as South Africa.
The "Inquisition" would have to include even the Crusades, during which many thousands of Jews were killed all across Europe and on into the "holy land." The first pope to inaugurate the Inquisition (at one stretch, 80 popes in a row continued to sponsor it) was Innocent III, who, in what he called "the crowning achievement" of his papacy, wiped out the city of Beziers, France. Estimated fatalities range from 20,000 to 60,000. It took the popes about a century to exterminate the Albigenses, of whom Peter de Rosa, a Catholic (Vicars of Christ, p. 73), says that "hundreds of thousands" were put to death in southern France-to say nothing of the Waldensians of northern Italy, the extermination of the Hussites-and on and on it goes. I'm surprised at the time and effort exerted in selective research by Porvaznik to bring the figures of those killed in the Inquisitions down to a few thousand, when there are single events such as the slaughter of Beziers or St. Bartholomew's massacre, etc., that are so well established and involve hundreds of thousands. What is your point?
It is disappointing that neither from you nor from Porvaznik have I heard a word of remorse for the horrors perpetrated by your Church down through the ages, to say nothing of the innocent lives destroyed by the thousands through the pedophilia presently in the news. You ought rather to mourn its wicked record than to persist in defending a church that is "drunk with the blood of the saints"!
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