Friday, May 18, 2012

Church, State & Tomás de Torquemada.

Tomás de Torquemada, (born 1420, Valladolid, Castile [Spain]—died September 16, 1498, Ávila, Castile), first grand inquisitor in Spain, whose name has become synonymous with the Christian Inquisition’s horror, religious bigotry, and cruel fanaticism. The nephew of a noted Dominican cardinal and theologian, Juan de Torquemada, the young Torquemada joined the Dominicans and in 1452 became prior of the monastery of Santa Cruz at Segovia, an office that he held for 22 years. He was closely associated with the religious policy of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I, to whom he was both confessor and adviser (to Isabella, from her childhood). He was convinced that the existence of the Marranos (Jewish converts), Moriscos (Islamic converts), Jews, and Moors was a threat to the religious and social life of Spain, and his influence with the Catholic monarchs enabled him to affect their policies. In August 1483 he was appointed grand inquisitor for Castile and León, and on October 17 his powers were extended to Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, and Majorca. In his capacity as grand inquisitor, Torquemada reorganized the Spanish Inquisition, which had been set up in Castile in 1478, establishing tribunals at Sevilla (Seville), Jaén, Córdoba, Ciudad Real, and, later, Zaragoza. In 1484 he promulgated 28 articles for the guidance of inquisitors, whose competence was extended to include not only crimes of heresy and apostasy but also sorcery, sodomy, polygamy, blasphemy, usury, and other offenses; torture was authorized in order to obtain evidence. These articles were supplemented by others promulgated between 1484 and 1498. The number of burnings at the stake during Torquemada’s tenure has been estimated at about 2,000. Torquemada’s implacable hostility to the Jews probably exercised an influence on the decision of Ferdinand and Isabella to expel from their dominions all Jews who had not embraced Christianity. Under the edict of March 31, 1492, more than 40,000 Jews left Spain. In his private life Torquemada seems to have been pious and austere, but his official career as inquisitor was marked by a harsh intransigence, which nevertheless was generally supported by public opinion, at least in the early years. Within his own order he was influential as visitator of the reformed Dominican priories of Aragon (1481–88), and his interest in the arts is evidenced in the monastery of St. Thomas at Ávila, where he died. In his final years, Torquemada’s health and age, coupled with widespread complaints, caused Pope Alexander VI to appoint four assistant inquisitors in June 1494 to restrain him. REFERENCE: Tomás de Torquemada

The Most Evil Men in History Torquemada

Christianity emerged when the Roman Empire was at the height of its power. To survive, Christianity adopted the policy of submission, obedience and peace. It teachings appealed to the oppressed, powerless and weaker sections of society who by accepting it endured exploitation and suffering with patience. In the early period, the converts belonged to the rural areas but gradually the faith spread and the urban population also embraced it. The belief in religion was so strong and deep that belivers preferred to die rather than to abjure it. They were tortured, thrown before wild animals and burnt at stakes. However, the number of converts continued to increase and strengthen Christianity’s impact on Roman society. When Roman Emperor, Augustus Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 CE, and made it the state religion, its character changed from submissive to an aggressive religion. Once the church acquired political power, it made attempts to convert the entire Roman Empire by using all coercive methods. The emperor fully patronised the Church in its efforts and gave it the position of a leading state institution. He allotted landed property to it and donated huge amounts of wealth to its officials. He exempted it from all taxes. Seeing this, the Roman nobility also joined the new faith to gain not only the favour of the emperor but also to protect their property and privileges. This transformed Christianity which, abandoning common people, became protector of the elite classes. When the Church became rich it changed its attitude towards poverty which was a matter of pride in its early days and instead, praised the merits of wealth. In the fifth century, the Christian world was divided into two. In the east was the Roman Emperor who fused religion into state structure and used it for political motives. In the west, the Pope became the spiritual leader, undermining the power of the European rulers. In both places, Christianity interpreted its ideology from fresh perspectives. It integrated its history with that of the Roman Empire and connected the birth of Christ to the foundation of the Empire by Augustus. A new history was written which, by denying the earlier stance, condemned all other faiths and claimed its monopoly on truth and righteousness. Heresy therefore became a crime. The Church adopted a policy to eliminate all heretic and sedition movements within Christianity and to wipe out the existing religions of the Roman time. In 453 CE, a law was promulgated whereby the properties of pagans and heretics were confiscated. They were punished if found to have secret meetings; the punishments including crucifixion, burning at the stake or being thrown to wild animals. These were the same punishments which were given to the Christians during the Roman period. As the Church became the inheritor of the Roman Empire, it adopted a harsh policy towards non Christians. This shows how political power changes the mindset and attitude of people. Saint Augustine argued that it was the blessing of God that the Church became strong with the help of the empire. Therefore, it was its right to punish heretics and strengthen the faith. Heretics were also ostracised socially. They were not allowed to attend church services. Christians were prohibited to marry into heretic families. Non Christians were dismissed from government jobs. There was a law which allowed them to be exiled and their property confiscated. The pagan philosophers were also victims of the Church. One woman philosopher, who was famous for her knowledge and wisdom, was stoned to death in front of a church when a bishop incited the mob against her. The last non Christian philosopher of Alexandria left the city as he was harassed and terrorised by the clergy. Some of the non Christian philosophers went to Harran, an ancient city near modern day Turkey, where they survived up to the 11th century. They were the people who transmitted Greek learning to the Arabs. There was religious tolerance in the pagan society which ended after the domination of Christianity. Tolerance was replaced by narrow-mindedness; all doors for creativity and innovation were closed. The rise of religion cut off all relations with the past and the knowledge of Greece and Ancient Rome was lost. Its slogan was one empire and one religion. The American Founding Fathers after studying history learnt the lesson that fusion of religion and state was detrimental to progress. That is why, at the time of drafting the constitution, they separated Church from state. In Europe, the French Revolution ended the domination of the Church and secularised the state. REFERENCE: Past present: Church and state By Mubarak Ali 6th May, 2012

Paradigm of Heresy(Church of God)

During the medieval period, the institution of the Church became so strong that it dominated the political, social and economic aspects of society. For example, it completely changed the structure of cities. During the Roman period, the centre of the city was marked by fountains, porticos and forums. Forums provided open space to the inhabitants to gather and watch cultural shows, listen to the speeches of politicians and generals, and participate in public discussions. In the new religious set up the whole structure of the city changed. Now, the centre of the city was dominated by an imposing cathedral which displayed the power of the church. Around it were monasteries where monks chanted night and day. The entire atmosphere created fear among the citizens who were constantly reminded of their mortality and warned to take care about the next world. The Church controlled the daily routine of the people. They divided their day and night by the ringing of church bells. The Church performed all rituals from birth to death. All believers were expected to attend church services; any absence gave rise to suspicion regarding a person’s religious beliefs. Such was the religious structure that nobody could contradict the teachings of the Church. Le Fabvre, the French historian who specialised in 16th century Europe, concluded that in this period there was no space for anyone to become an atheist. To capture the imagination of the people, the Church adopted a number of symbols such as memorials of martyrs who sacrificed their life for religion. These memorials were built at different places to create a spirit of devotion among the believers. Miracles of saints were propagated in order to create respect for them. Holy relics were displayed in every church which attracted people to come and pay homage to them. The Church also introduced its own calendar which regulated the date for religious festivals and rituals; it was also used for administrative purposes.

When the ritual of confession was introduced and it became incumbent on every Christian to confess his sins once a year, it allowed the Church to interfere in the private life of people. It became customary for priests to deliver sermons in which they condemned the rich and criticised women for displaying fashion. These sermons were passionate and fiery and aimed at working on the emotions and conscience of the congregation which brought them in further awe of the Church and they looked to it to save them from natural disasters like illness, famines, drought and pestilence. To increase its control on society, church authorities had the right to excommunicate those who defied the order of the Church. It was a formidable tool because a person who was excommunicated found no place in society. He had no alternative but to apologise and accept punishment to come back into the fold of Christianity.

Another effective tool in the hands of the Church was the institution of inquisition. It was organised in the 11th century to prevent any deviation from the teachings of the Church. Priests toured villages and towns and traced suspects who had any doubts in religious beliefs. If such a person was found, he appeared before the officers of inquisition who thoroughly investigated the case. If necessary, torture was applied to get a confession; if found guilty, he was handed over to secular authorities to be burnt at the stake. In Spain, the inquisition was used against the Jews and the Muslims after the conquest of the last Arab kingdom of Granada in 1492. The Church also launched crusades against the heretics and different religious sects. Any break from mainstream Christianity was regarded as treason. When the printing press came into being and started to print books, Church authorities were in a quandary regarding how to control literature which was against the teachings of religion. In 1515 CE, the Pope issued an order that the authorities of the Church should check the material of every book before publication. Nobody was allowed to publish any book without the permission of the Church. The Church used to publish an index of books printed in other countries and prohibited its followers from reading them. Some of these books were completely banned and some of them partly censored. The officials of the Church searched the arriving ships to make sure that they were not carrying any banned literature. It was customary to raid bookshops and libraries to see if there were any uncensored books. The result of this hold of religion was that the medieval period remained intellectually bankrupt and hollow. It prevented the birth of liberal and secular ideas and thoughts. However, the corruption and degradation of the church institutions allowed thinkers and intellectuals to challenge it and liberate the society from this rigidity and extremism. The end of the Church’s power was the beginning of a new era in the history of Europe. REFERENCE: Past present: Church and society By Mubarak Ali 13th May, 2012

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