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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Ignacio de Loyola Saint Ignatius


The Inquisition as an instrument of the kings and an agency to suppress heresy.]

The two principal instruments employed to combat heresy were the Inquisition and the Jesuit order. So far as the former concerned itself with matters of the faith, it had the support of the Spanish people, who equally with the kings were desirous of the establishment and maintenance of religious unity. The Inquisition had acquired various powers and privileges, however, which were not directly connected with its principal office. Papal bulls had been procured giving it jurisdiction in cases of usury, crimes against nature, and improper solicitations of confessors; it claimed exemption for its officers and servants from the operation of the civil law courts; and its relations with these courts, made necessary by the legal incapacity of the Inquisition to execute its own sentences, often gave rise to conflicts and misunderstandings. The people of Spain were perfectly able to distinguish between the Inquisition as an instrument of the faith and the Inquisition in these extra-jurisdictional phases, and protested vigorously against that body in the latter sense. The various _Cortes_ of Castile, Aragon, and Catalonia presented many a petition on this score to the kings, and it was a prominent factor in the Catalan revolt of 1640. Nevertheless, the kings consistently sustained the Inquisition. When the Aragonese _Cortes_ secured a papal license reducing the Inquisition

to the same footing as the other ecclesiastical courts, Charles I procured the withdrawal of the license. Philip II prohibited all appeals from or complaints against the Inquisition before the _audiencias_ or the _Consejo Real_. The decisions of the Inquisition thus became final, although it is true that cases of appeal and the recourse of _fuerza_ (also forbidden by Philip) were occasionally allowed to go beyond that body. When there seemed to be a likelihood that the Council of Trent might deprive the Inquisition of some of its authority, Charles I used every effort to cause a failure of the project. In fact the Inquisition was virtually an instrument of the kings, who did not hesitate to direct its action as if it were legally subject to them, and who were always able to procure the appointment of members of the _Consejo Real_ to the Council of the Inquisition. As regards heresy the period, naturally, was exceedingly fruitful in prosecutions and was marked by an excess of suspicion, such that individuals whose purity of faith was hardly open to question were not infrequently brought to trial,--among others, Ignacio de Loyola (Saint Ignatius), and Teresa de Jes?s, who, like Loyola, was later canonized. Extreme rigor was displayed in placing the ban on unorthodox books and in expurgating those which were allowed to circulate. Charles I required all books to have the authorization of the _Consejo Real_ before they could be published. Foreign books were also scrutinized carefully, and libraries were made subject to inspection. The grant of a license by the _Consejo Real_ did not mean that a book might not be placed on the Inquisition's _Index_ of forbidden works. It is worthy of note, too, that the Spanish _Index_ and that of the Inquisition of Rome often varied from each other in their lists; thus a book condemned at Rome might circulate in Spain, and vice versa, but this of course was not the general rule. The Spanish Inquisition did not make its way to Spain's Italian possessions, but was established in the Low Countries, where it was very active, and in the Americas.

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