Thesis: Spanish Inquisition

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Spanish inquisition would be a shared effort between the Spanish monarchy and the Catholic Church to impose harsh oppression upon non-Catholics.

Point 1: The inquisition was a reaction to an end in the long-term rule of Muslim conquerors on the Iberian peninsula and to a long-standing Anti-Semitism amongst the Spanish.

Point 2: The inquisition was set into motion by the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand, who brought monarchical unity to the rule of the Iberian peninsula.

Point 3: The inquisition was facilitated by Catholic insecurity over its status as well as its theological conflict with the Jews. These produced an Anti-Semitism which permeated the economy, politics and religious doctrine, allowing public acceptance of the inquisition.

Point 4: Political imperatives became an important part of making Christian doctrines the conventionally accepted moral, spiritual and legal code, allowing for the rationalization of extreme behaviors toward non-believers.

Point 5: The throne would seize on already present acts of aggression toward the Jewish minority in the form of segregation, pogroms and forced conversion, using the inquisition as a tool to consolidate power.

Point 6: The adoption of the inquisition led to immediate executions by the Monarchy, with thousands of Jews particularly victimized.

Point 7: The extremity and baseless nature of many executions caused the Catholic Church to attempt to intervene with the Spanish Crown, but with no success.

Point 8: At its height, the inquisition would order the expulsion of all Jews from Spain (1492).

Point 9: Ultimately, the policy would be destructive to the labor economy, political identity and ethnic culture of Spain.

The Origins and Implications of the Spanish Inquisition

Europe has a deep-seeded and perpetually re-emergent tendency toward Anti-Semitism. Owing especially to the continent's indoctrination under the Catholic faith and the teachings of many in the papacy that Jewish heresy was an affront to Christianity, a doctrine of inquisition existed in many forms since the medieval proliferation of the Holy Roman Empire. The Byzantine incarnation of the Roman Empire was centered on the crusading enforcement of Christian values but of course, its edicts toward the violent suppression of non-Catholics also brought the Church the spoils of war. The interwoven elements of religion, politics and economy demonstrated here would also serve to direct the actions of the Crown and Church as they interceded in Spain during the 15th century. The Spanish Inquisition would come to reflect official Spanish policy as of 1478 and would serve to guide a practice of extreme oppression of non-Christians for the next four hundred years. Indeed, the Inquisition would guide Spain through a period of ethnic cleansing and would help to foretell the downfall of its so-called Golden Age. Its prelude, its execution and its aftermath all reflect a collaboration between the Catholic Church and the Spanish to impose harsh oppression upon non-Catholics.

The onset of the Inquisition would be prefigured by a society deeply tilted against the interests of both the Muslims and Jews who were prominent in many regions of Spain. The former group had been a conqueror of the land and held sway over Spain for centuries. So denotes Peters (1989), who tells that the ruling family, called the Hapsburgs, "based their authority far more on their military power and success in the Reconquista of Iberia from Muslim powers." (Peters, 77) Indeed, the Inquisition would reflect the effort at a solidification of European authority in a context where the Moorish empires had ruled the land for many centuries.

It would also reflect a revulsion toward the Jewish population which had to this point coexisted peacefully with the royalty of Spain. Accordingly, our research refers to this period as 'convivencia,' a reference to the stasis of relative harmony between religions and ethnicities, "albeit punctuated by occasional conflict among the ruling Catholics and the Jews and Muslims. However, as Henry Kamen notes, "so-called convivencia was always a relationship between unequals.' Despite their legal inequality, there was a long tradition of Jewish service to the crown of Aragon and Jews occupied many important posts, both religious and political. Castile itself had an unofficial rabbi." (Wikipedia, 1)

But the presence of tensions blossomed into policy as the strength of the Church and Crown grew gradually more stable. The marriage of Isabella of Castile to Ferdinand of Aragon would bring about a unification of the Iberian peninsula that in addition to marking a sharp break from the Moorish period before it, would invite the Catholic Church to sit aside the Spanish throne. Indeed, Ferdinand and Isabella would be recognized as the Catholic Monarchs of Europe, casting their Spanish kingdom as the capital of the Catholic world at that juncture. This was, by no coincidence, also a juncture at which Spain would begin its ascent to the top of a constantly waged power struggle between the kingdoms of Europe for land both on the continent and in New Worlds. Both in the interest of solidifying this power and demonstrating their commitment to the Church, "Ferdinand and Isabella chose Catholicism to unite Spain and in 1478 asked permission of the pope to begin the Spanish Inquisition to purify the people of Spain. They began by driving out Jews, Protestants and other non-believers." (Kreger, 1)

In order to understand this event though, one must understand the complex and contentious relationship between the Jewish faith and Christianity during its precipitous rise to power. Indeed, as the Church became gradually intertwined with the Monarchies of Europe, so did the political and economic structures of Europe gradually shift toward an extreme oppression of Jews. Though the targets of the inquisition in Spain would nominally be identified as other non-Catholics, a set of motives rest in the Catholic psyche for a specific emphasis of flushing out Judaism. Namely, the inflammatory notion that the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a mythologized over-simplification of history that has helped to sustain an unwavering if often invisible image problem for the Jews. This notion has been a long-standing provocateur of resentment against the Jews, whose historical texts identify them inherently as being the Chosen People.

For the Catholics, the Jews represented a specific image problem particularly in their shared origin. Almost as a compensatory gesture of faith in doctrines adopted in light of and in lieu of the Jewish Torah, the Catholics seemed driven to employ political and lethal force as a way of validating subsequent scriptures. As Peters explains this, "it took four centuries for sufficiently widely accepted canon of Christian scripture to be defined and accepted (modeled upon Jewish religious literature, which then came to be called by Christians the 'Old' Testament), and the existence of a wide body of texts purporting to be canonical is conformed not only by St. Paul, but by subsequent archaeological and literary discoveries." (Peters, 18)

Such is to say that the outright cultural and political dominance of Christianity would actually be hard-won as its leaders and various splinter-sects attempted to prove that Christianity now superceded Judaism. This is to suggest that without the force of the throne, Christianity was without a unifying form or doctrine. The inquisition of Spain and Rome before that would reflect the defensive perspective which motivated the violent suppression of Judaism. To many Catholics, it was only through the elimination of this 'Old' faith that Christianity could realize its core imperatives.

To be sure, this was a perspective which governed the experience of Jews in the years leading up to the inquisition itself. The 'pogroms' which have been visited upon Jews in nearly every part of Europe for centuries were a way of inflicting ethnically motivated terror on the Jewish settlements that were often isolated and, due to policies of segregation, less fortunate. The pogroms in 14th century Spain were driven by the interest of motivating Jews to convert to Catholicism. This is a decision which many Jews would make, with the interest of avoiding arrest, torture or execution for the practice of heresy. Heresy, in this case, would be identified as the practice of Judaism. Thus, "one of the consequences of these pogroms was the mass conversion of Jews. Forced baptism was totally contrary to the law of the Catholic Church, therefore anybody who had been forcibly baptized could legally return to Judaism. However, after the public violence, many of the converted "felt it safer to remain in their new religion."[4] Thus after 1391 a new social group appeared and were referred to as conversos or New Christians." (Wikipedia, 1)

In spite of their conversion, many Jews would continue to practice their faith in secret. Many others would simply be subjected to mistreatment and social segregation in spite of their conversion. Though now free to live in Spain without legal harassment, their label as 'New Christians' distinguished converted members of the 'Old' faith. Thus, they could not escape civil harassment as Catholic fervor and the efforts of a number of particularly popular religious figures would help to stoke the long latent sense of hostility toward the Jews.

For the Catholic Monarchs, this… [END OF PREVIEW]

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