The Spanish Inquisition and the Black Legend
Excerpted from “Why Apologize for the Spanish Inquisition?” by Very Rev. Fr. Alphonsus Maria Duran, MJ

The following two pages are excerpted from two booklets by Father Alphonsus Duran, MJ and Fr. Paul Vota, MJ. These booklets show that the two “historical facts” most widely used against Queen Isabel are not what many of us were taught in school.

Judged by the standards of its times, the Spanish Inquisition was neither unjust in its procedures nor cruel in its punishments. The penalties, proportioned to the seriousness of the crime, ranged from a mild reprimand or public demonstration of penance to barring from public office. Sometimes there was banishment from the city, or flogging, or confiscation of goods, or incarceration — which many times was merely house arrest. The ultimate and therefore most rare punishment was burning.

In the 30 years of Queen Isabel’s reign, about 100,000 persons were questioned by the Inquisition. Of these, more than 80,000 were found innocent and usually very promptly. Another 15,000 were found guilty, but after a public declaration of faith, auto de fe, they were unconditionally released. Only about 2,000 were executed. (In 1794 during the French Revolution, which ushered in the so-called Enlightenment, more men and women were executed in twenty days than Queen Isabel’s Inquisition gave over to execution in twenty years.) According to Raphael Molisend, a Protestant historian, Henry VIII executed 72,000 Catholics. His daughter, Elizabeth I, in very few years, also in the name of a “reformed” Christianism and as such “purified,” caused more victims...than the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions together in three centuries. From Geneva, Calvin sent messages to England to incite extermination: “whoever doesn’t want to kill a Papist is a traitor”. Not only the English who remained faithful to Rome knew of this policy, but even the Irish to whom not only life and civil rights were denied (until 1913), but whose lands were even robbed from them. In 1585 the “democratic” English Parliament “decreed the death of English citizens who returned to England after being ordained Catholic priests, to them and to anyone having contact with them.” (Black Legends of the Church by Vitrorio Messori, ch.6, nr. 36). The death penalty was a very common type of punishment for many crimes up until the 20th century which, though claiming to be so enlightened in regards to the death penalty, is the bloodiest of all centuries with its wars and persecutions. Between World War I and World War II it is calculated that roughly 50 million people died. In Russia alone, between the Great Purge of Stalin, the suppression of peasants and workers rebelling against the Communist Revolution, people starving to death in the Ukraine, religious persecution, etc., it is calculated that about 40 million people died. The Communist Revolution in China claims 80 million people dead. In Cambodia, at least 2 million. In Vietnam, at least I million. In Spain, 1 million. Several million in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and other countries around Russia.

The Catholic Spanish Inquisition, just in terms of the numbers of people executed, is nothing but a kitty-cat, or even just a little mouse, in comparison with the killing monster of Communism.

Nevertheless, the amazing thing is that in so much of the literature (for sure, biased), it is painted as a much more lethal beast.

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