LETTER 16: A SET OF TWO:
THE SPANISH INQUISITION, PART 1
WHAT IS AN INQUISITION?
My Dear Mr. Solomon:---You know, of course, that in taking a picture, the photographer is careful to see that the object is in proper focus, knowing that otherwise the picture will be indistinct or distorted. So is it most necessary to properly focus your mind upon the Spanish Inquisition, to avoid getting a distorted mental picture of that historic event. This done, one of the obstacles will be removed that keeps you from realizing that belief in Old Testament principles and prophecies logically lead to the Baptismal font of the Catholic Church.
Three things are necessary to get an Inquisition in proper mental focus:---an understanding of what it is; who are subject to it; and whether it is used to force Jews to Baptism. First:---An Inquisition is a court, a tribunal of inquiry, for the examination, reconciliation, and punishment of persons charged with violating the principles and practices of the society that institutes the Inquisition. Inquisitions existed, by Divine right, in Jewry during the centuries before the first Pentecost Day, the day when the Catholic Church began its public mission. Inquisitions also existed in Lutheran Saxony; Calvinist Geneva; in the England of Elizabeth, Edward VI, James First, and Cromwell, and in other Protestant lands, as well as in Catholic Spain. Courts of Inquiry, though not called inquisitions, also exist today in clubs, lodges, trade unions, and other secular societies, as well as in our United States Government.
Surely you will agree that it is necessary, and within the province of our United States Government, to safeguard its integrity by bringing suspected enemies within its borders to account, in times of peace as well as war, through such now existing inquisitorial bodies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the President's Loyalty Review Board; the Subversive Activities Control Board; and the Committee on Un-American Activities. This being so, then is it not perfectly legitimate for the Catholic Church to institute an Inquisition to safeguard the integrity of her principles and practices? And for an Inquisition to exist in Spain for the purpose of unearthing traitors within its borders who, under the pretense of being Christians, operated in the interest of a foreign power, as do the Communists in our country? Remember that Catholics hold, as did our Jewish forebears during the days when Judaism functioned as the religion of Almighty God, that heresy is a violation of God's law; that persons who are heretics are more culpable than those who are guilty of treasonable action against a civil government.
Second:---The Inquisition in the Catholic Church passed judgment, by divine right, upon the actions of Catholics, not Jews: that is, persons who through Baptism became subject to her in matters of faith and morals; whether they were born of Catholic, Jewish, Mohammedan, Protestant, Pagan, or Atheist parents. Hence unbaptized persons, who professed to be Jews, were not subject to the inquisitorial tribunal. This will be called to the attention of Rabbi Albert J. Gordan of Newton Center, Mass., who, speaking on "Prejudices" in one of his weekly broadcasts, on the day that this is being written, declared that "the Jews in Spain were persecuted because they refused to accept Christianity." His incorrectness, as well as yours, Mr. Solomon, is attested to by an English and an American Jewish author of prominence in present-day Jewry. Dr. Cecil Roth, writing of The Spanish Inquisition says:
"The object of the Inquisition was to deal with heretics within the Church---that is to say persons who had been Baptized, or who asserted that they were Christians; but departed from the practice of Roman Catholicism. ... Normally, however, the Inquisition had no power over Jews as such: And occasionally an accused person put as his defense the plea that he was a Jew, who had never pretended to be anything else. If this claim could be established, he was safe from inquisitorial punishment" (London, 1937, p. 131). Prof. Salo Wittmayer Baron says, in his Social and Religious History of the Jews, that "It appears to be a fact as well as a theory that Jews who never ceased professing Judaism were, as a whole, left undisturbed.
... They were the only group in the European population beyond the reach of the Church and its administration of justice" (N. Y. Vol. 21, pp. 58-60).
Third:---Forced conversions were never tolerated by the Catholic Church, as were conversions to Judaism, evidence of which will be presented next week for your benefit, my dear Mr. Solomon, and for the benefit of the other Jewish readers of the Public Library copy of The Pilot. While there were occasions in Spain when Jews suffered from mob violence, as have Negroes in our country, submission to Baptism is, and always has been, considered a voluntary action. The Church knows that: "He who complies against his will is of the same opinion still."
Besides, a forced Baptism, which is not a legitimate Baptism, is a violation of a basic principle of the Catholic Church, the right of conscience. Rabbi Louis I. Newman of New York City, who has been taken to task at times for expressions hostile to the Catholic Church, recognized that "those converted through duress were not considered Baptized. Baptism, it was argued, was a voluntary act of faith; through kindness and charity Jews were to be attracted to Christianity; through instruction they were to be converted to its truths" (The Jewish Influences in Christian Reform Movement, p. 262).
The Spanish Inquisition was instituted in 1478 A. D., at the request of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, for the repression of heresy, that threatened Spanish nationality as well as the welfare of the Church. This was during the age when the people of Europe were virtually a unit in considering heretical conduct a sin, a violation of God's law. They considered it a greater offense than a crime, which is an act against the state; though both were considered worthy of punishment.
I appreciate how difficult it is for you, and innumerable others, to realize the enormity of heretical conduct during our age, when a soap-boxer in Columbus Circle, New York City, was arrested for insulting our flag; whereas a soap-boxer indulging in blasphemous talk against God, in the same place, was not even stopped. I recall the arrest of Socialist Bouck White for burning an American flag to show his contempt for "capitalist America;" but have yet to hear of the arrest of a K.K.K. man for burning a Cross, which is a gross offense.
There is more to come for your enlightenment, my dear Mr. Solomon. In the meantime I suggest that you focus your mind on the above triad of matter related to the Inquisition.
THE SPANISH INQUISITION
My Dear Mr. Solomon:---Now that you know "what in Heaven caused" me "to become a Catholic," attention may be paid to your second inquiry: "How can you, a Jew, belong to a Church that persecuted the Jews in Spain, during the Spanish Inquisition?"
You are but one of a multitude of Jews whose hearts have unfortunately been hardened, and eyes held, by the anti-Catholic stories of the over 450-year-old historic Inquisition that is continually harped upon in the Jewish press. I recall a vicious presentation of it in the Yiddish Art Theater, New York City, wherein a "Jewish Passion Play, The Witch of Castile" was presented, which was advertised as a "portrayal of Jewish life during the Inquisition period of the Roman Catholic Church, under Pope Paul IV, in the 15th century."
I know very well how you feel about the Spanish Inquisition, as it is in accord with my once-upon-a-time misconceived sentiment. This Inquisition complex is a mental obstacle, second only to the claim that Jesus is the predicted Messiah, that blacks out an appreciation, aye, even a consideration of the fact that Jesus, and His Catholic Church, are the fulfillment of all that is great and glorious in Old Testament principles and predictions.
Maurice M. Fueurlich, son of a rabbi, who was proud to be known as a Jew, writing in the Jewish Forum, New York City (Sept. 1937) on "Children of a Martyr Race," told of the "persecution complex" he suffered, due in great part to "the Spanish Inquisition (which) had been dinned into my consciousness so deeply that it became a basic element in my emotional life." John Cournes, a Jewish writer, said in his "Epistle To The Jews," that though his household had lapsed from Orthodox Judaism, "the name Torquemada, the loathsome Grand Inquisitor, was a byword amongst us children, as in other households" (Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 1937).
Before dealing directly with the Spanish Inquisition, it were well for you to realize the historic fact well known to students of religious history, that inquisitions, though not so designated, were common in Jewry during the pre-Christian centuries, when the Jewish ecclesiastics and priests were the Divine teachers, protectors, definers, and judges of God-proclaimed principles and practices, as are Catholic ecclesiastics and priests today.
The most famous, or rather infamous Inquisition in history, is the one that was conducted by the Sanhedrin, under the headship of high priest Caiphas before which Jesus was tried, convicted of blasphemy for claiming to be the Messiah, and turned over to Pilate, the civil authority, who ordered the Roman soldiers to crucify Him. If Jesus had been a Messianic pretender, as He was charged with being, the action of the Inquisitors would have been justifiable. This is said because Jesus, being a Jew, was subject to the Mosaic Law, which declared:---"He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, dying let him die; All the multitude shall stone him ..." (Levit. 24:16).
During the Christian era, Spinoza was tried for heresy at the Inquisition of the Rabbinical College in Amsterdam, Holland, which was made up of descendants of Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal, during the 15th century. Greatz, the foremost Jewish historian, says that "the rabbis pronounced the severest ban ... He was particularly guilty of horrible heresies ... therefore in the presence of the Torah (Books of Moses) the customary curses were pronounced upon him ..." Application was made by the Rabbis to the civil authorities for "the perpetual banishment" of Spinoza, from Holland, the land of his birth, from which he had to flee. He narrowly escaped, as an attempt was made to kill him. Spinoza would have been stoned to death, in accord with the Mosaic Law, for his pantheistic anti-personal- God doctrines, if the power to inflict capital punishment were not the exclusive prerogative of the civil authorities in Holland; as it was the exclusive prerogative of the civil authority in Jerusalem at the time when high priest Caiphas shouted out.:---"He (Jesus) hath blasphemed. He is guilty (worthy) of death" (St. Matt. 26).
Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, dean of the Teachers Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary, founder of the Jewish Reconstructionist movement, was excommunicated and curses invoked upon him, by the 200 American and Canadian rabbis in attendance at their Orthodox Theological Seminary a few years ago (New York City, June 15, 1945). Rabbi Kaplan was accused of advocating "heresy and disbelief in the basic tenets of Judaism" in his Sabbath Prayer Book. He declared therein, as do a large number of other rabbis in our country, that the Torah (Pentateuch) is a human document, and not "supernaturally inspired;" and that modern Jews no longer look forward to the advent of a personal Messiah.
Heresy is tabooed among a multitude of persons of assumed intellectual superiority, who hold that "a man has a right to think whatever he wants to think." Of course, man has the power to think that the moon is made of green cheese; that two plus two is five; that "nothing is eternal but change," as a Jewish Socialist declared, but he has no legitimate right to conjure up such thoughts.
Heresy is also tabooed among a multitude of persons who hold that "one religion is as good as another religion, as they all aim for the same thing." Such a belief has rightly been considered by Old Testament Jews to be heretical; as it has been by Catholics ever since the Church displaced the Synagogue as the spiritual society through which the teachings of God are divinely voiced. Persons who believe that the principles of God, Who is an unchangeable God, are unchangeable principles, must hold that a denial of them is a denial of God, hence heretical. The determination of what those principles are, and if they are misinterpreted, is a prerogative of the spiritual society established by God.
Heresy, which the Spanish Inquisition dealt with, is a repudiation of the Divine virtue of faith, which retards the attainment of salvation. St. Paul says in his instruction to Titus:---"A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid; knowing that he, that is such a one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment" (3:10-11).