THE MARRANOS AND AUTO-DE-FE
My Dear Mr. Solomon:---It has been my endeavor, I hope with some success, to get you to realize that heresy is a major offense, as is treason, though more so. Heresy is a sin that offends God; whereas treason is a crime in that it offends man in his organized civic capacity. The Marranos were guilty of both, due to pretentiously approaching the baptismal font, the confessional, and the altar rail, to further their conspiracy against the Spanish Kingdom. It is appreciation of the enormity of an offense against God, that prompted Moses, the father of Judaism, to punish the guilty in numbers greater than the deaths attributed to Spain during the years of the Inquisition. Open your Jewish Bible to Exodus 32:27-28, and Leviticus 20:27, there you will learn of the thousands Moses caused to be put to the sword, and stoned to death, for idolatry and heresy.
The Catholic Church is obligated by her very nature, as Divine teacher and guardian of the integrity of things Christian, to investigate and punish those persons she Baptizes, who are charged and found guilty of violating her principles and practices. This the Catholic Church did through the Auto-de-Fe (Act of Faith).
The Auto-de-Fe was a tribunal of reconciliation, rather than of punishment. Its purpose was to save souls. The accused were therefore invited to abjure their heresies, etc., to repent and thus to be reinstituted in the grace of God. It was an ecclesiastical court that opened with prayer and an address on Catholic Faith, followed by a procession of the people assembled. Then came the liberation of persons falsely accused, not only of heresy, but of other spiritual offenses as well. Most of the sentences were of a minor nature, such as fasting, wearing of a special garb for a while, and internment in certain houses, which at times were the houses of the penitents. Then came the sentences of unrepentant sinners who had been found guilty; persons who refused to recant. They were remanded to the secular authorities according to the law, which the Church was obliged to obey. The Auto-de-Fe pronouncement of guilt generally read as follows:---Mr. ... is "Convicted as an heretical apostate, a favorer and abettor of heresies, a false and counterfeit penitent, an impenitent relapser; by his crimes he has incurred the penalty of excommunication and ... abandoned to justice and the secular arm. We, however, beg and most affectionately charge, in the strongest and best manner in our power, that he be treated with kindness and mercy."
If the heretic was put to death, it was by the law of the State. The Church was no more guilty of the imposition of capital punishment by the State, than you would be guilty of an electrocution, if, as a juryman, you voted a prisoner guilty of murder, who was sentenced to death by the judge.
If ever the time comes, and may it be soon, when you make an unbiased investigation, as I did, of the charge that the Catholic Church tortured and burned heretics, you will find it to be of prejudicial, unhistoric origin. You will find that one of the axioms of the Catholic Church is "A sanguine abhorret Ecclesia" (the Church abhors bloodshed). Therefore priests are prohibited from practicing surgery, lest their anointed hand draw blood. Therefore priests refrain from deposing in capital proceedings. Evidence of this abhorrence of the shedding of blood on the part of the Church, was reported in the public press last month, on Washington's Birthday. It was in the story of Masses having been canceled for the day, in Danielson, Conn., on account of blood having been shed in the Church by a man who committed suicide therein. The edifice had to be reconsecrated before the sacred service, the Sacrifice of the Mass, could be celebrated on its altar.
I am not assuming to be an apologist for the manner in which persons found guilty of heresy were dealt with by the State during Spanish Inquisition days. I am no more such an apologist than I assume you to be an apologist for the strangling, stoning-to-death method of dealing with heretics, sexual sinners, etc., by order of the Jewish Church authorities, during the centuries when the Mosaic religion functioned as God's religion. The extreme penalties imposed upon Jews, and others, by the Spanish Government, were condemned by Pope Leo X, Paul III, Paul IV, and Sixtus IV, who reigned during Spanish Inquisition years. Pope Sixtus IV notified Ferdinand and Isabella that "mercy towards the guilty is more pleasing to God than the severity you are using."
The charge that the Catholic Church tortured and murdered heretics had come originally from anti-Catholic England. While Spain was guilty at times of imposing extreme punishment upon Jews and Moors, the number and severity of them never equaled those that were meted out to Catholics in anti-Catholic England. You will find evidence of this in William Cobbett's History of the Protestant Reformation, in which he shows that "Elizabeth alone put more persons to death in one year than did the Inquisition during the whole period of its existence." Another Protestant, Andrew Land, the well known Scottish historian said:---"Why all this bother among the Protestants about the Inquisition, when the Protestants themselves burned more witches in the 17th century in one country, either Scotland or Germany, take your choice, than the Spaniards put to death by Inquisition in 300 years?"
Dr. Cecil Roth, the British Jewish historian, said in an address delivered in the Zionist Forum, Buffalo, New York, upon his visit to our country:---"Some Jews have the feeling that the papacy has a policy of persecuting Jews. But you must remember that English history is definitely anti-Catholic, and your views of Catholicism may have been colored by English history. We Jews who have suffered so much from prejudices, should rid our minds of prejudices and learn the facts. The truth is that the popes and the Catholic Church from the earliest days of the Church were never responsible for physical persecution of Jews, and only Rome, among the capitals of the world, is free from having been a place of Jewish tragedy. For this we Jews must have gratitude" (Feb. 25,1927).
Feed on this my dear Mr. Solomon, until we meet again through the Public Library copy of The Pilot, as there is one more answer to your queries to come. In the meantime beware, for where the prejudice is strong, the judgment is weak.