12 February 2008

From bicycles to the Black Adder

Just when I started reading a bit on the Spanish Inquisition to fill in huge gaps in my education and checked out a (so far) decent CD set from the library (The Modern Scholar, Heaven or Heresy: A History of the Inquisition, lectures by Thomas F. Madden from St. Louis University), I learn of some columns by should-be-Catholic Oxvay Ayday (his name has been pig Latinized to hopefully keep me below the Technorati radar).

I was alerted to his Monday column on the Inquisition. Below is just a snippet, you can read the entire column here, some names in pig Latin.

It is a curious thing considering how often it is brought up in conversation and Internet debate by lay a-theists, but in "The God Delusion," Ichardray Awkinsday conspicuously neglects to detail what he describes as the "horrors" of the Spanish Inquisition. Ristopherchay Itchenshay and Anielday Ennettday both avoid discussing it altogether. Only reason's clown, Amsay Arrishay, is sufficiently foolish to swallow the old, black legend, hook, line and sinker, as he attempts to portray the collective inquisitions as one of the two "darkest episodes in the history of faith."

On June 9, 721 ad., Duke Odo of Aquitaine defeated Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani before the walls of the besieged city of Toulouse. This battle, followed by the victories of King Pelayo of Asturias and Charles Martel at the battles of Covadonga and Tours, brought to an end a century of remarkably successful Islamic expansion. Over the next 760 years, the Umayyads' conquests on the Spanish peninsula were gradually rolled back by a succession of Christian kings, a long process disturbed by the usual shifting of alliances as well as varying degrees of ambition and military competence on both sides of the religious divide. The "Reconquista" was completed with the fall of Muslim Granada in 1492 to the Castilian forces of King Ferdinand.

The Spanish Inquisition, which began in 1481, cannot be understood without recognizing the significance of this epic 771-year struggle between Christians and Muslims over the Spanish peninsula. What took the great Berber Gen. Tariq ibn Zayid only eight years to conquer on behalf of the Umayyad Caliphate required almost 100 times as long to regain, and neither King Ferdinand II of Aragon nor his wife, Queen Isabella of Castile, was inclined to risk any possibility of having to repeat the grand endeavor. Isabella, in particular, was concerned about reports of conversos, purported Christians who had pretended to convert from Judaism but were still practicing their former religion. This was troubling, as it was reasonable to assume that those who were lying about their religious conversion were also lying about their loyalty to the united crowns, and it was known that some Jews were encouraging Muslim leaders to attempt the recapture of al-Andalus. ("It remains a fact that the Jews, either directly or through their coreligionists in Africa, encouraged the Mohammedans to conquer Spain." The Jewish Encyclopedia (1906). Vol XI, 485.)

An investigation was commissioned, and the reports were verified, at which point the Spanish monarchs asked Pope Sixtus IV to create a branch of the Roman Inquisition that would report to the Spanish crown. The pope initially refused, but when Ferdinand threatened to leave Rome to its own devices should the Turks attack, he reluctantly acceded and issued "Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus" on Nov. 1, 1478, a papal bull establishing an inquisition in Isabella's Kingdom of Castile. One tends to get the impression that Ferdinand was less than deeply concerned about the potential converso threat and may have even been acting primarily to mollify his wife, as he promptly made use of this hard-won new authority to do absolutely nothing for the next two years. Then, on Sept. 27, 1480, the first two inquisitors, Miguel de Morillo and Juan de San Martín, were named, the first tribunal was created, and by Feb. 6, 1481, six false Christians had been accused, tried, convicted and burned in the Spanish Inquisition's first auto da fé.

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