Witch trials

One of the principal flaws in the Vatican’s claims that the Inquisition was not really all that bad is the supposition that the distance that now exists in Spain between church and state was also present when torturing and burning women was the norm. It’s possible that the Spanish state tortured and burnt more than the Spanish church, but since for long periods the Spanish state was to a large degree a theocracy it is pure sophistry to see its actions as somehow separate from the church. (How many did the Spanish state kill for heresy? The press conference didn’t mention that.) I seem to remember the Pope apologising a few years back for any unnecessary thuggery committed by governments on behalf of Rome way back then, but it now looks like they’re pushing for a complete acquittal.

Here follows a quick translation of an account from the 1620s of a trial which – in the Vatican’s view – had a happy ending. It is from a collection of Madrid news stories of the time made by Agustín Gonzáez de Amezúa, published by Madrid Council in 1942, and made available by the RAE:

On Sunday 27th, proceedings of the Inquisition were held in San Felipe el Real, of the order of Saint Augustine. They brought out a woman, a noblewoman and confirmed Christian, called Doña Ana de Enríquez de Cisneros who claimed to be the saint Guadalajara. She became a very devout woman and called herself thereafter María de la Concepción, and in this state was so tempted by the flesh, that being virtuous, she embraced this vice wholeheartedly. The Devil tested her faith and she gave herself over to all manner of deceit and false illusion; she was blasphemous and sacriligious; she deceived her Confessor with virtuous appearances. She had an undeniable pact with the Devil. She spat at a Christ Crucified. Every day she took communion twice and thrice [eh?], tempting herself with blasphemous words in front of the crucifix. She was an Arrian, a Calvinist, a Mahomedan heretic. She denied the immortality of the soul and of Purgatory, Hell and Heaven, as well as the power of the Pope, Images [eh? Imágines] and the Holy Sacrament. She begged for mercy with many tears and much contrition, and, the only denunciation being her own, she was condemned to [wear a] San Benito [penitential suit] and to life in prison, without remission, hooding, gagging and whipping, which they told her the following day. The preacher was Father Master Friar Diego Lopez de Andrade, of the order of Saint Augustine, the greatest preacher at Court.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray said during the Vatican press conference that

Acknowledging the past was all the more relevant given the continued use of torture in the 21st Century, most notably by US troops against prisoners held in Iraq.

Unfortunately for him US torture of prisoners is notable principally for the fact that the US is extremely disturbed about it and committed to action; meanwhile the Vatican continues to pretend that the Rwanda genocide had nothing to do with its organisation in that country. (Oh, sorry, Rwanda was in the 20th century!) The Polish loon said in 1996 that

The Church … cannot be held responsible for the guilt of its members that have acted against the evangelic law

but clearly believes that that principle is not applicable to the US.

(Just to prove what an evenhanded person I am, I’ll try soon to post some excerpts from the diaries of a C17th renegade Dutch preacher.)

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